You could fit a Wal-Mart inside it.

Officials have broken ground for a $70 million recreation center in Williston they say will be the biggest in North Dakota and among the largest in the nation.

The 234,000-square-foot facility on the campus of Williston State College will include a water park and an Olympic-size swimming pool, four basketball courts, four tennis courts, a 200-meter running track, a golf simulator and other features.

"It's really big," Jeremy Ludlum, the city's recreation superintendent, told The Forum newspaper ( ). "You could put Walmart inside of it."

City sales tax money is paying for the center. Construction is expected to be complete by March 2014.

The center designed by a Denver-based architecture company that has worked on sports facilities for four decades will be a big step toward attracting more families to Williston as oil industry workers consider making North Dakota their permanent home, Mayor Ward Koeser said.

"We realize how critical it is to have a quality of life here that attracts people and helps them to want to stay here," he said.

Several other communities in the booming western oil patch with growing populations also are working on recreation centers or expanding existing facilities. Officials in Crosby broke ground last week for a community center that will feature an indoor hockey rink and curling rink. Watford City is building a wellness center, and Dickinson is considering expanding its West River Community Center.