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School sports facility not in the cards to replace MetraPark grandstands in Billings

Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 20:12:31-05

BILLINGS — A multi-use sports facility will not replace the MetraPark Grandstands in Billings after Yellowstone County commissioners ended a partnership in planning with Billings School District 2.

School Superintendent Greg Upham broke the news to trustees in a planning and development committee board meeting on Tuesday. Upham shared a letter he received from the county commissioners Monday.

“Basically, they just didn’t feel that a sports venue was the direction that they wanted to go. I was obviously disappointed, but as I shared with them from the very beginning, I wasn’t going to do anything in a derogatory or negative sense in moving forward," Upham said.

Upham added the commissioners told him they're leaning more toward agriculture and entertainment uses.

The county owns MetraPark, and commissioners have been discussing what to put in the grandstands' place since the beginning of the year. Upham has sat in on MetraPark planning meetings over the course of the year to share the school district's desires for the newly open space.

The county commissioners are narrowing down three different draft master plans. The difference lies in what structure would replace the grandstands. One plan calls for an athletic stadium to host football and track and field events. Another called for an amphitheater/stadium hybrid.

Now it seems the options are narrowed to an enclosed arena, similar to the Montana Expo Center, but with stadium seating and the ability to bring in either dirt or ice. The other plan calls for another, more modern, set of grandstands to be built.

School board Chair Greta Besch Moen asked Upham to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the commissioners to ask about the reasoning behind the decision to ax the sports facility.

"I would appreciate an opportunity to sit down with our county commissioners again to find out what the rationale was for the decision. What input they gathered to make that type of a decision. I think that School District 2 is an immediate revenue stream for building up the MetraPark and I would like to have that conversation with them as well," Besch Moen said.

RELATED: Billings MetraPark proposed renovations include possible amphitheater