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

Posted at 6:24 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 20:24:42-05

BILLINGS — Members of the MetraPark advisory board are seeking public input to help shape the master plan for major renovations at the 189-acre entertainment and events space in Billings, said Charlie Loveridge, MetraPark advisory board president Wednesday.

“We’re looking at a facility that absolutely, unequivocally could use some improvement. No question, and having a vision to make an iconic change. Not just something like, ‘oh we put this little thing here and it’s pretty nice.’ I mean iconic," Loveridge said at a media conference in the First Interstate Arena.

Last year, three proposals were revealed for major renovations to the MetraPark campus, which has a central location in Billings next to the Rimrocks and Yellowstone River. Concept drawings showcased a built-out campus with improved landscaping and fairgrounds area, additional entrances and exits and expansion to the Expo Center.

Over the summer and fall of 2020, several structures at MetraPark were demolished, including the grandstands, two buildings on the west side of the property bordering Main Street, and livestock barns on the east side of the property.

Construction has begun on a 100-stall barn to replace the ones that were knocked down, Loveridge said.

“Those old barns, they've been lipsticked and rouged a lot. In fact, with a lot of them, if there was any kind of load on them like snow, nothing could go in there," Loveridge said.

No specific items of construction in the master plan have been nailed down yet, and that's what advisory board members are working to complete within the year after gaining plenty of public input.

“There's really no clear consensus of what the facilities are going to be. Over the coming weeks, we invite the public to be part of that conversation. To weigh in on the current design concepts and to bring new ideas. We know the residents want MetraPark to be an iconic campus that draws people from around the region to our community," Loveridge said.

On an average year, Metrapark brings in $150 million to Yellowstone County from various events, including MontanaFair and its 225,000 yearly attendees.

The team with Billings-based Kinetic Marketing and Creative helped the advisory board conduct a preliminary survey of more than 50 community leaders, stakeholders and MetraPark users to kick off the call for public input.

The survey identified some main themes from participants. One was the desire for a plan that embraces the full potential of the facility and provides an iconic draw for residents and people from out-of-county.

Another theme was the belief that MetraPark should be a place where the community can gather to enjoy events that cater to a wide variety of audiences.

Finally, survey respondents called for transparency and leadership from the Yellowstone County Commission in finalizing the master plan and bringing bond measures to voters.

Loveridge said the MetraPark Advisory Board will roll out dates for public meetings for civic and business groups, an online public opinion survey and a website in the coming weeks to gain public comment.

The board is using money from private donations to fund the public outreach campaign, Loveridge said.

To read the complete preliminary survey of community stakeholders, which includes plenty of information about possible additions to the campus, click here.