The superintendent of School District 2, Greg Upham, was in attendance at the November Metra Park Advisory Board meeting to make a most emphatic point that he and the school district’s board of trustees are very interested in developing some kind of sports stadium /complex that can take the place of Daylis Stadium for School District 2.

He said that he wanted to make clear that the school district is ready to share revenues, because it is evident that taxpayers are experiencing “levy fatigue” and there is a need for “internal change,” given the growth anticipated for the high school. In 2016, the district set aside $10 million for updating Daylis, he noted.

“Relocating Daylis will allow us to open up the career center,” said Upham, who went on to explain how the focus of education is changing, as they have hired career coaches, which will broaden the curriculum to one that is not just focused on preparing students to get a BA.

Given the activities of football, track, cross country and soccer, Upham said there would probably be about 60 events a year using the stadium. They are talking “big numbers,” said Upham in terms of spectators. Football typically draws 2000 spectators and soccer, 1000.

The school district has instituted the FFA program to encourage interest in animal science and that means “we will be looking for barns,” in the future, he added.

Asked how soon the school district would like to see such a facility developed, Upham said, “Yesterday.”

Two other guests were also in attendance at the meeting, held last Tuesday, advocating for other uses of Metra Park, including Mitch Dimich of Pepsi Cola Bottling Company, urging that future planning consider building an outdoor stadium for concerts.

Dan Fuchs, president of Triangle Public Affairs, who has been pushing for legislation that will allow historical horseracing gaming in Montana, was on hand to update the advisory board about the status of the legislation.

Fuchs told the board, “We’d like to get the Montana Board of Horse Racing a revenue stream that would provide for any of the 14 communities that held live race meets in the past to flip the lights back on and apply for live race days. We believe over time some will race again, the breeding industry will come back and all the related economic impacts will return. This effort is much bigger than racing in Billings again. As the state legislature continues to struggle with rapid change in important industries, which Montana has historically relied upon for revenue, like coal and cattle. HHR revenues can be a shot in the arm for an important part of our leading industry, agriculture. As coal is phased out and the cattle growers face new headwinds with a vegan substitute (Beyond Meat) it’s becoming increasingly important to find ways to save and nurture the industries we rely on to fund our schools and important state services. We believe the legislature will agree in 2021 with the vote of confidence they provided with SB 183 in 2019.”

Plans to replace some of the aging livestock barns with a new facility are fast advancing. The Ag Committee of the Metra Park Advisory Board reported that specs are being drawn up for a post frame building, 80 feet by 250 feet with a 10-foot overhang that will accommodate 100, 10x10 foot stalls. About $550,000 is available to build the structure, funding which was generated by the sale of a surplus piece of property not needed by Metra Park.

The structure will be built on the west side of the road in order to be out of the flood plain and will replace three old barns. Consolidating the stalling, also, opens more area on the grounds.

The 100 stalls will be designed to be portable, wood stalls with sufficient doors for Bobcat cleaning. Also, it will include electrical outlets on every pole and water hydrants. It will include a gravel pad.

The project leaves 285 stalls in old barns to still be replaced, but adds a 100 stalls to the 100 stalls in the stalling barn next to the Super Barn.

With all the interests expressed regarding potential future uses of Metra Park, the stage was set for a report from board member Lyle Hill that his committee, the Buildings & Grounds Committee, is pursuing the development of a master plan for all of Metra Park. They have received an estimate that a master plan would cost about $150,000.

Hill said that they hope they can get other groups to “pony up” some of the cost of a master plan. Specifically mentioned was Big Sky Economic Development, whose director Steve Arveschoug was also at the meeting. Arveschoug mentioned a number of issues he hoped a master plan would explore and he encouraged Metra Park to develop a statement regarding what their focus is, or a mission statement.

Yellowstone County’s Director of Finance Kevan Bryan urged that they move forward on a master plan and to determine what they want to do with the goal of being able to put any tax issue they might consider necessary on the ballot for 2021.

Board member Daryl Tunnecliff commented that doing a master plan is a “big deal….there is a lot of analysis that has to go on.” He said that what they decide to do with the grandstands will dictate the direction of what they do in the future. CTA Architects is in the process of conducting an assessment of the grandstands and what it will cost to update them, since a preliminary analysis determined that the structure is sound. The board expects a report from CTA in January.

Ray Massie, Marketing Director, reported that the survey they did of fair-goers revealed that the most popular aspect of the fair is fair food. The second most popular attraction is the free music and the third is the trained animal acts. Responses were very much the same no matter their age, said Massie.

Most of the people attending Montana Fair come from Yellowstone County, the second county the fair most draws from is Gallatin County.

Massie reported that beer sales and food sales revenue at the fair were the highest ever.

It was noted that the co-promote fund that was established which, through beer sales helps Metra Park to bring events that otherwise might not be viable, has been very successful. It currently has a balance of $98,000.