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Billings Skyview vs. Great Falls CMR boys soccer

Great Falls CMR's Charlie Chabot (5) gets a ball past Billings Skyview goalie Jasen Denowh during the first half of the game at Amend Park on Saturday, August 31.

One of the soccer fields in the southwest corner of Amend Park will get artificial turf, LED lighting and bleachers for 500, a move that will allow the park to host games after dark and in the winter. 

The Billings City Council voted unanimously to approve the project, which will be funded through the South Billings Urban Renewal Association tax increment financing district.

Amend Park Board members and soccer clubs in town were eager to get the project approved. By going after the project now, the city can use a provision known as state contract purchasing to join with the state in an agreement already made between the turf vendor and Montana. 

"State contract purchasing allows the city to utilize a pre-negotiated price between the vendor and the State Purchasing Department to build this project, therefore eliminating the requirement to go out for bids," according to city staff. 

The state's contract with the vendor expires on Sept. 16. 

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The total cost of the project is $1.5 million and work on the field will begin this week. Organizers hope to have it completed by March 31, in time for the start of the spring soccer season.

As part of the cost, the park board created a fund that will allow them to save money for upkeep and maintenance, eliminating the need to seek additional funding from the city in the future.

Boosters of the project spoke out at Monday night's council meeting, highlighting how a field with artificial turf, bleachers and lights will extend the playing season and make Billings an attractive destination for soccer tournaments. 

Council members also updated the city's annual assessments for maintenance districts and the public safety mill levy passed a decade ago. The taxable value of the city increased 4.3%.

That increase combined with Billings' population growth widens the city's tax base, which in some cases slightly decreases maintenance district fees for some residents. Those who live in Park District 1, for example, will pay $26 a year in 2020 in park fees if they own a $200,000 home. The amount in 2019 was $27. 

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