At 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday Missoula County officials will turn over the first ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt to commemorate Phase One of the redevelopment of the historic fairgrounds.

Fairgrounds Director Emily Brock Bentley said the redevelopment has been a long time coming.

“We are well into the design process and tomorrow marks the first time shovels will turn and we will start doing some of the work on the site to prepare for a new livestock center, rodeo arena, ice rinks in the back,” said Brick Bentley. “We’ll get that work done before the fair and then right after this year’s fair, we’ll start renovating the commercial and culinary buildings and then we’ll just keep moving forward.”
Brock Bentley provides a brief description of what the fairgrounds will look like when all the work is done.

“There’ll be 19 acres of green space, the beautiful historic buildings will be renovated and available for weddings and for all kinds of events,” she said. “The chain link fence around the fairgrounds will be taken down and replaced by a really nice stone wall. There’ll be trail access all through the fairgrounds and it will serve as an event center, but also as a park.”

Brock Bentley said the existing racetrack will be removed within the next 60 to 90 days, but not disposed of altogether.

“We’re talking about selling jars of the racetrack dirt at the fair this year, so that’ll be something cool to look forward to,” she said. “People feel attached to it, for sure, but the community is ready for us to move forward. The decision (against having horseracing) has been made again and again for years, and we’re so excited to get back those 20 acres of land that’s never used.”

The groundbreaking ceremony is at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 1 at the racetrack. The public is asked to enter through the rodeo grandstands on the south side of the fairgrounds.