County considering Big Sky Trust Fund application for Expo Park study

During Tuesday’s meeting, Cascade County Commissioners will consider submitting an application to the Big Sky Trust Fund for $25,000 for an expanded study of the infrastructure at Montana Expo Park.

Great Falls Montana Tourism is leading the effort and the grant request grew out of their recent effort to conduct an impact study that a new multi-use event center at the fairgrounds and the potential infrastructure improvements that would be required.

That’s after the 2014 feasibility study of the multi-use event center and determining that the best location for that facility is at Expo Park, according to Rebecca Engum of Great Falls Montana Tourism.

The tourism agency had already received grant funding for that study and was matching it with their own funds. While consultants were on site at Expo Park, they said it would be worthwhile to take a complete look at the existing infrastructure.

Engum said that since the property has transferred between the city and county over the years, there’s no complete set of plans detailing the existing infrastructure at Expo Park.

The expanded infrastructure study is typically later in the development process, Engum said, but for this community it made sense to do this work now. That would allow the county to see the infrastructure needs and perhaps make some upgrades during regular maintenance versus putting all the improvements into a major capital investment or bond levy, Engum said.

If the commission votes to submit the grant application, the county will be the applicant but Great Falls Montana Tourism is supplying the data and operating under a memorandum of understanding with the county to pursue the project.

“The Expo Park is an asset that we need to have,” Engum said. “We don’t want it to decline.”

The Big Sky Trust Fund application is due Oct. 9 and Engum said they’d likely know this fall whether the county received the funds.

All of this analysis will be completed without consideration of what types of events the possible multi-event center will be tailored for, Engum said.