A New Vision For the
Future of MetraPark
MetraPark will mark 50 years of serving Yellowstone County in 2025. In anticipation of this milestone, the MetraPark Advisory Board and MetraPark leadership began a process in early 2020 to develop a new Master Plan for MetraPark.
The Master Planning process is designed to reimagine the complete 189-acre campus, adding new facilities and amenities, improving upon the assets already in place, and creating a world-class experience that sets MetraPark apart as a unique destination and tourism magnet for the region.
As Yellowstone County looks to kick start our economy post-pandemic, we want to position MetraPark to take advantage of this rare moment. This is the time to anticipate new trends in events and entertainment, identify and respond to community needs.
Investment in MetraPark will drive our region’s economy for decades to come. MetraPark is here to serve the community – which means that the community must lead the process to create the new vision.
An Economic Driver
Hotels, restaurants, retail – but so much more. We sat down with community leaders and entrepreneurs from a range of industries to hear how this venue, the events it hosts and the diverse range of people it draws to Billings impacts them personally and reverberates throughout Yellowstone County.
Public Input Opportunities
Phase One –
Concept Development (2020)
The goals of this phase were to understand community needs as well as identify opportunities for increased revenue generation. A base concept design was produced, with space identified for at least two new facilities on the MetraPark campus.
Beginning in early 2020, MetraPark engaged with Charles D. Smith Architecture and Planning to work with local stakeholders in developing preliminary concept drawings for building out the complete MetraPark campus.
These include more landscaping and parking, improved circulation and midway, an expanded Expo Center and options for additional venues. Possible venue additions include an outdoor amphitheater, an indoor/outdoor arena, an athletic facility, new grandstands and hybrid or multipurpose facilities.
Additionally, Big Sky Economic Development received a Community Development Block Grant to work on beautification of the entryway design and perimeter of MetraPark. Preliminary design concepts can be found HERE.
Phase Two –
Based community conversations, civic group presentations, one-on-one interviews with stakeholders and a public survey of residents of Yellowstone County participants were able to contribute their ideas and be a part of the future of MetraPark.
Throughout public design workshops and listening sessions topics were discussed at length such as safety, beautification, circulation, landscaping and community connections. A new Outdoor Amphitheater and multi-use spaces were among the new proposed facilities.
In addition to the public participation, the Planning Team also engaged targeted stakeholders to provide more detailed input with regard to programming and other aspects in a handful of priority areas identified in the preliminary research report conducted by Cushing Terrell, Designing Trust and Kinetic Marketing and Creative earlier this year.
The targeted stakeholders took the form of specific workgroups, and each was tasked with diving deeply and exploring options regarding one of the following aspects of MetraPark:
Phase Three –
Draft Master Plan
Conceptual Design and Proposed Improvements
The suggested improvements outlined in the MetraPark Master Plan for both new and existing facilities (parking and traffic) aim to create places, spaces and experiences that cater to the widest amount of people and interests. Of course, nothing is ‘set in stone’ but we encourage you to spend a little time with our interactive map to get a feel for the vision we are creating for the future of MetraPark.
Click on the map below to learn more.
Phase Four –
Final Master Plan
Once public comment on the draft has been received, a final master plan report will be presented to the public. The MetraPark Advisory Board and Yellowstone County Commission will have the opportunity to discuss and vote on the plan in late June or early July.
During this time, options for funding the master plan will also be discussed.
Ideas for MetraPark? Questions about the process?
Your feedback is important to us!
Why is MetraPark developing a Master Plan now?
A number of events have led up to the decision to undertake a master planning process for MetraPark. The demolition of unsafe facilities on campus showed just how much open space is available for use. Agricultural barns are in transition, moving away from old, dilapidated buildings to newer, upgraded Super Barns. The pandemic shutdown highlighted the need for MetraPark to anticipate new economic trends and prepare to respond to a public desire for more outdoor venues. There is a huge demand among Yellowstone County residents for MetraPark to improve the fencing and present a more visually appealing facility. And, finally, MetraPark is looking ahead to its 50-year anniversary in 2025, marking an important milestone and a good opportunity to plan for the future.
How much is this plan going to cost?
And who is paying for it?
At this time, those decisions are still being evaluated. As the public is reviewing master plan concepts and weighing in on various proposals, there are many decisions yet to be made. Until final decisions have been made on new and expanded facilities, amenities, and infrastructure, determining a total cost is premature. Likewise, there are many strategies being explored to fund the project, including applying for federal and state grants, developing public-private partnerships, and bonding.
Who owns MetraPark?
MetraPark is a county facility – it belongs to the residents of Yellowstone County. MetraPark is operated by county employees and overseen by the Yellowstone County Commissioners. An appointed Advisory Board provides recommendations and citizen guidance on the operations and vision of MetraPark.
Why aren’t there more current artists performing at MetraPark?
Booking performances and events at any facility depends on a variety of factors. Billings is challenged by its location – it is not naturally on the route for many touring performers, and the driving radius for tourists to attend a concert in Billings is mostly rural. In addition, since the facility is supported by taxpayers, MetraPark leadership wants to be sure that events break even or generate revenue – sometimes the cost-benefit analysis for a particular artist just doesn’t make sense for the community.
Even so, throughout the master planning process, the public desire for more modern acts and more diversity of events is being heard loudly. MetraPark staff and Advisory Board members are exploring a variety of options to improve our community’s chances for bringing in bigger performers and a wider variety of music genres.
Why did the County Commission decide to demolish the grandstands?
The grandstands were no longer safe. After pieces of the façade began crumbling and falling off, MetraPark undertook an engineering study to determine options. The study concluded that the grandstands were no longer safe for public use. Repairs were estimated at $5 to $20 million, and a new facility cost was estimated at $24 million. Demolition of the facility cost significantly less and created the opportunity to envision a new future for MetraPark. Read more details on the grandstands decision.
Why did the County Commission reject the idea of partnering with Billings Public Schools on a football stadium?
Unfortunately, after many months of discussion and evaluation, the partnership just didn’t make sense for MetraPark. The proposed facility would have taken up a significant footprint on the MetraPark campus, potentially limiting additional facilities. Taxpayers in Lockwood and Laurel who just recently invested in new athletic facilities were not supportive of paying for a BPS stadium. MetraPark will continue its long-standing commitment to hosting high-quality high school state and regional tournaments, but it isn’t the best location for local practices or local games for one single school district.
Is paid parking coming to MetraPark?
No decisions have been made regarding funding strategies, either for new construction or operations of new facilities. Paid parking is one possible option to collect revenue from facility users – including tourists — for MetraPark, reducing potential burdens on local property owners. However, no decisions have been made at this time, and any such decision would be open to public input and comment.
How much money does MetraPark make in a year?
On average, MetraPark generates approximately $7 million per year in revenues. However, the impact of MetraPark goes far beyond that. A 2018 analysis showed that MetraPark drives nearly $151 million annually in gross economic impact for Yellowstone County – that means people staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, local job growth, and increased household spending due to improved earnings. Read more details on the study.
I see a lot of construction happening at MetraPark – does that mean the plans have already been decided on?
Not at all! Most of the work being done now is in preparation for the future of MetraPark – removing buildings that are no longer safe for public use, improving infrastructure, and cleaning up the grounds. This year, a new 100-stall Super Barn was installed to replace aging barns that were no longer usable or safe for animals. Because rodeo and agriculture are so important to MetraPark, construction of a new barn simply could not wait. The Super Barn project was bid and awarded a few years ago, before the Master Planning process began. However, the complete vision for MetraPark’s future remains in the hands of the public – where it belongs.
News & Events
August 24th, 2021
Have you ever marveled at the complete transformation of MetraPark during fair week? A parking lot becomes a carnival, unremarkable […]Read more