Race track removal just first step in Missoula Fairgrounds changes

Posted at 8:17 AM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-02 10:17:04-04

MISSOULA – The Missoula County Fairgrounds Director says there are still some long-term funding and design questions to be answered. But people will notice immediate changes as the fairgrounds redevelopment gets underway.

Missoula County commissioners, fairgrounds staff and volunteers gathered Tuesday morning to officially break ground on Phase 1 of the redevelopment plans, which come after decades of debate over the future for the fairgrounds. 

County leaders believe they’ve struck the right balance between the fairgrounds’ historical agricultural legacy, and the need to be a modern, multi-use facility into the future.

The initial work is to tear out the old horse racing track, moving that soil to the Big Sky Equestrian Park and start site preparation work for the new rodeo grounds.  After the fair, work will focus on restoring the Culinary and Commercial Buildings and ironing out designs and funding for other improvements.

"This work that we’re doing now is preparing from 5-acres of open space at the fairgrounds to 19-acres of open space, which is going to be such a boon for Mid-town," said Missoula County Fairgrounds Director Emily Bentley.

"And then also prepare for a new livestock center, a new rodeo arena and ice rinks. So although those buildings aren’t funded yet we’re putting in the utilities and doing the site work for them," she added.

County commissioners say they have $15 million set aside for the initial work, and will need to find an additional $5 million to complete Phase 1.