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Public comment sought for next phase of Missoula Co. Fairgrounds redevelopment

Posted at 8:02 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 22:02:02-05

MISSOULA  — The Missoula County Fairgrounds hosts some of western Montana's favorite events, but it's in need of upgrades.

Fairgrounds officials presented their plans for redevelopment on Tuesday to Missoula County commissioners.

Phase one focused on changes to the venue while the second phase will look at investing resources into what the community wants and to that end, fairgrounds officials presented the findings of a community survey they have been gathering.

"Community input is absolutely critical to the fairgrounds redevelopment we are a public entity and we value what the taxpayers have to say and what they want to see there money spent on," Missoula County Fairgrounds director Emily Brock said.

Overall, the survey showed that the community supports the fairgrounds and has a positive view on the venue and the respondents also said they want the next phase to happen, as long as it means minimal extra tax input.

"Phase two is the rodeo arena, the livestock center, and the ice rink. So they want to see as many as those entities as possible," Brock explained. "And they also a little bit tax-sensitive and so they would like to see us cut back a little bit of the scope of those projects and have them be a little bit smaller and still meet the community need and we think we can do that."

"I really like that this is all rolled together. This is one fairground that’s moving forward together that’s the push. So rather than pitting these interest groups against one another," said Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnik. "This proposal encompasses the fairgrounds in total and really takes into account all the entities that are there and that they all have a constituency.

Slotnik added the question and issue here is whether we put a go bond on the ballet. Since this is really the first time they've had a chance to digest the numbers and confer with the other commissioners and staff they don't know what they will do yet.

"But it was a moving presentation and I was thrilled to see such strong support," said Slotnik.

The two main parts to phase two are a new 4H venue and a new ice facility with three sheets -- and hopefully year-long use.

One issue the public had with the new project is funding for new ice sheets with 72% of people surveyed saying they would be more likely to approve a bond issue if some private funding was included for new rinks.