Yellowstone County commissioners voted 2-1 on Tuesday to ask private companies for bids on managing MetraPark.
The three commissioners, all Republicans, have been divided on the issue and are now waiting to hear about the possibilities.
"Motion that we issue an RFP for executive management of MetraPark," Commissioner Denis Pitman said at the meeting.
The debate over whether to privatize management at MetraPark has taken another step forward. The county will now officially accept proposals to take over management of the 189-acre facility.
Pitman and Commisioner Don Jones voted yes. Commissioner John Ostlund voted no.
"And I hope we can all agree that that business-run operations are inherently better than government-run operations," a citizen said during public comment.
"You need to listen to the people," one citizen said. "And the people don't want this."
Public opinion over managing MetraPark has been divided and so is the vision of the county commissioners.
"I don't agree with the process we're doing, and I think we should look at it further," Ostlund said during the meeting.
"I have an agenda item on today that would allow the commissioners to have Venue Solutions Group (the county's consultant) take a second look at the public venues that are successful," Ostlund said, while touting the success of MetraPark.
"We've gone down that road before," said Pitman about Ostlund's motion. "He had asked us to engage Venue Solutions. We spent almost $20,000 on that report."
Commissioners expect at least two companies to now submit bids, OVG and ASM global, both based in Los Angeles.
"What are you willing to do?" Pitman said about what questions the commissioners will have about the proposals. "What does that look like? And what are the financial implications? What do you bring as far as assets and things like that and professionalism that make us want us to consider you."
On Thursday, the Billings Chamber of Commerce is welcoming city leaders from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Nampa, Idaho, cities that have private companies overseeing public venues.
The deadline for MetraPark proposals is Sept. 19, which means the next month is sure to be full of debate as Metra's fate is decided and with it the future of events like MontanaFair.