MISSOULA – The redevelopment of the Missoula County Fairgrounds is underway with projects which will bring sweeping changes to the historic site after years of discussion, debate and design
Missoula County commissioners, fairgrounds staff, volunteers and contractors formally broke ground on Phase 1 of the redevelopment on Tuesday morning. And within minutes of the ceremony, heavy equipment from Jackson Contractor Group began excavating the old horse racing track, which had been one of the points of controversy during the long planning process.
The specialized soil is being removed and will be re-purposed at the Big Sky Equestrian Park on the west side of Missoula.
In place of the track, the county plans to relocate the rodeo grounds and grandstand area, as well as improve the total open space on the site from 5-acres to 19-acres.
Additionally, the county plans to install 6000 feet of trail connections and begin renovating some of the fair’s historical buildings. A new 4H Learning Center and MSU Cooperative Extension building will be constructed as well as a new shop and the entire fairgrounds will be given fresh landscaping and new fencing.
The county will also press forward with preliminary design development for future buildings on the site, including a new home for the Glacier Ice Rink. Phase 1 will cost $20 million and the county already has $15-million earmarked for the work, which will take five years to complete.
Missoula County commissioners see the project as a chance to transform the fairgrounds into more of a multiple-use facility while enhancing the "mid-town" area of Missoula and still preserving its agricultural legacy.