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MetraPark designers hear from ag community at Lockwood listening session

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Posted at 11:07 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 01:07:32-04

LOCKWOOD — Engineers for a massive construction project planned for MetraPark in Billings received input from the public at a listening session inside the Lockwood High School Auditorium Tuesday.

“We’re really looking comprehensively at everything that you can do, see, or move around the park. Our goal is to build consensus. We want to get everybody’s buy in to this future project and any future projects at the park," said Dave Dixon, an urban planner for Billings-based firm Cushing Terrell who led the discussion.

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Dave Dixon, urban planner for Cushing Terrell at the listening session inside the Lockwood High School Auditorium Tuesday.

About 20 people turned out to share their thoughts on how to further build out the 189-acre space in the heart of Billings. Many ideas were floated about how to better facilitate agricultural events.

The county hopes to complete the master plan by the end of the year.

Attendees said the park needs better entrances and exits onto Old Highway 87 for vehicles pulling trailers. The need for more bathrooms across the facility was brought up, along with a desire for more separation between livestock and the public for safety.

“We certainly heard from the ag community here, and some folks who hosted ag events. They had a very different set of ideas than maybe what folks in downtown Billings might like. We’re looking at the commonalities and the differences," Dixon said.

A shared sentiment from the wider group was that more directions are needed to navigate the large campus. Meeting attendees said many people don't know there is a backside to MetraPark and end up parking in the north lots, when their event is closer to the south side of the property.

A view of the MetraPark Expo Center looking from the walkway near First Interstate Arena.

Attendees had the idea of adding more visible signs to buildings and adding a few large map signs around the park, so people can better track their location. The idea of creating a cell phone app to act as a hub for event locations, dates and times was also brought up.

The meeting was the second of four listening sessions planned for the communities surrounding Billings. The presenters were also at Shepherd High School on Tuesday and are scheduled to be in Laurel and Huntley this week.

MetraPark Master Plan Listening Sessions

  • April 28: Laurel High School Auditorium at 5:30 p.m.
  • April 29: Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative Company Room 150 in Huntley at 5:30 p.m.

Dixon invited everyone to come out and share their thoughts.

"This is really the core of the county community. It’s the heartbeat of the county. So, here’s your chance to make sure that has meaningful impacts on everyone’s day-to-day life and everybody’s entertainment life and make sure it’s a responsible plan going into the future," Dixon said.

With two listening sessions under his belt, Dixon said a shared sentiment was a desire from the public for public officials to spend money wisely.

"If you put something out there, make sure that it is well connected to the community. Really think about all of the factors that are involved here. How does it make MetraPark look to somebody who might want to host an event there. All of these things that are kind of spinning around that we know are out there. If you're going to intervene and do something new, make sure that it makes sense for the greatest amount of people possible," Dixon said.

On an average year, MetraPark brings $151 million of economic impact to the area with 282 event days per year, according to the facility's advisory board.

There are more public meetings, called design sessions, to come. Dixon said the design sessions will be geared toward the layout of the park and the individual locations of new features.

MetraPark Design Sessions

  • May 4: First Interstate Arena 12 p.m., public tour starts 11:30 a.m.
  • May 6: First Interstate Arena 4:30 p.m., public tour starts 4 p.m.

A virtual workshop held via Zoom will be held May 5 at 10:30 a.m. and May 10 at 12 p.m.

RELATED: MetraPark leaders seeking public's help to craft master plan for major renovations