County approves contract for additional Expo Park study; funding to replace vandalized equipment

Cascade County Commissioners approved a $27,500 contract during Tuesday’s morning for additional study on the livestock zone at Montana Expo Park.

The study is an add-on to the study already conducted by the Great Falls Tourism Business Improvement District with Conventions, Sports and Leisure International and Populus to make recommended improvements and site layouts for Montana Expo Park.

County approves additional funds for Expo Park projects; additional facility study for potential improvements

The tourism office presented the draft plan last fall and the county had some concerns about the functionality of the livestock zone in the proposed plan.

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The additional study will include more “stakeholder outreach, research and analysis on alternate locations for livestock activities; development of revised site layouts, drawings, other visuals and delivery of a revised study report draft including the alternate livestock zone option,” according to the county agenda report.

Expo Park improvement project might be on November ballot

In January, commissioners said they wanted a cost estimate on moving the livestock zone to the northeast quadrant of the Expo Park grounds, which was not included in the consultant’s proposal since the consultants deemed it less cost-effective than the plan they presented to the public in late November.

Rebecca Engum of Great Falls Montana Tourism told commissioners that the draft report that was presented to the community last fall was the result of a 2014 feasibility study asking whether a multipurpose events center was doable in the community. That study found the answer was yes and the second study looked at what enhancements should be made to the existing Expo Park facility.

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Engum said the consultants were sensitive to the cost and presented the lowest cost options in their initial report.

She said this additional study seems as if it could be the last step in creating a final plan to give tourism, the county and the community some direction to move forward.

The tourism office and others involved in the initial study have done substantial stakeholder outreach, but have more to do, “to ensure we have a plan moving forward that’s well thought out,” Engum said.

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The tourism agency has been exploring options for major improvements at Expo Park, which would require a public vote for a roughly $86 million bond to finance the project.

In January, the tourism board approved funding toward an education effort related to putting the Expo Park bond on the 2019 ballot.

In April, commissioners said 2020 was the earliest the bond would go to the ballot.

“We have no appetite to do it in 2019,” Commissioner Joe Briggs told The Electric last month. “We won’t be ready.”

During the May 14 meeting, commissioners also approved a budget increase for Montana Expo Park on Tuesday for the maintenance department for $7,702.

The funds are needed to replace scrubbers and other equipment that was damaged this spring in a vandalism incident at Expo Park, according to county public works.

Someone broke into the facility, damaged the scrubbers, rending them unusable and public works needed to replace them.

The back barn was also damaged, according to public works.