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Aging MetraPark grandstands to be demolished

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MetraPark grandstand

The Yellowstone County Commission has decided to tear down the 70-year-old grandstand structure on the MetraPark grounds. The demolition would cost from $1 million to $2 million and the money would come from the county's general fund.

The Yellowstone County Commission on Tuesday decided to tear down the MetraPark grandstand after a study showed the building was unsafe.

The demolition would cost from $1 million to $2 million and the money would come from the county's general fund, said commissioner Denis Pitman. 

The grandstand was evaluated last year by CTA Architects Engineers after bricks and facade began falling off the 70-year-old building. 

"The building is not safe for mass public use," said MetraPark Marketing Director Ray Massie.

Fixing the problems with the 96,000-square-foot structure would have cost from $5 million to $20 million depending on the level of repairs, Massie said. Building a new grandstand could cost $24 million, he said. 

MetraPark grandstand

School officials have proposed a county sports facility at the 70 year old MetraPark grandstand.

As the grandstand began to deteriorate, fewer events where held there. The grandstand had been a fixture of county sporting events, until the track deteriorated and was never fixed in the late 2000s. The dirt horse track is also unused. 

The grandstand was most recently used during MontanaFair last summer for rodeo events and for the motocross. Those events will be moved to the First Interstate arena next year, Massie said. 

Offices under the grandstand will also be demolished, including the Yellowstone Room which was used on a regular basis, Massie said. 

A timeline for demolition has not been set, although Pitman would like to have the work done by summer. 

"Ultimate goal is before (MontanaFair) starts," he said. "That puts us at a pretty short timeline." 

Commissioners will next send out a request for proposals from contractors, and then finalize the cost of the project.

The decision to demolish the grandstands come at a "perfect time," Pitman said. "We're having meetings of the master planning for MetraPark."

As a officials begin to plan for MetraPark's future, a blank slate is exciting, he said.

"Everything is on the table, we're only limited by our imagination for the potential for that space. We're at a unique position," he said.

The grandstand area going back past the barns toward the Yellowstone River account for about 100 acres of the 189-acre MetraPark area, Pitman said.

Some ideas for the grandstand area would be increased parking, and continuing the feel of a "campus approach." New ideas will be discussed during the master plan meetings this week. 

Previous proposals for the area have included a county athletic stadium, which was proposed in 2019 by School District 2 and supported by both Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College. 

On Tuesday, SD2 Superintendent Greg Upham said he was ready to work with MetraPark and the county to develop a sports venue. 

"We’ll do whatever we can to continue to support that and the community," he said. 

For Upham, the move was rooted in problems at Daylis Stadium, which is adjacent to Senior High. The grandstand at Daylis is in need of massive renovations. 

Previously, Upham has said that combining the two projects would ultimately save money for taxpayers

"We just want to be good neighbors and try and share costs that help the community," he said.

Leveling the grandstand is the first step to continuing those conversations, said Massie. The defunct structure was an impediment to those new proposals. 

As talks about the grandstand and the back end of MetraPark continue, Pitman is optimistic that any new proposals will be an improvement to the existing structure.

"The grandstand is an icon that tearing it down certainly will change the landscape of Billings. But, hopefully what we put together and propose to the community is a great asset that is even better," Pitman said. 


Retrospective: Metra construction

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Day General Assignment Reporter

General assignment reporter for The Billings Gazette.

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