On Saturday, Phase 1 of the new Fort Missoula Regional Park will officially debut, but the media got a sneak preview on Monday afternoon with Donna Gaukler with Missoula Parks and Recreation.

Gaukler walked through a brief history of the park's expansion, starting with the purchase of the land from the University of Montana in 1997, which led to the 2014 bond issue of $42 million, over half of which has been spent on Phase 1.

"There were 23 bids in Phase 1,and 22 were local, " Gaukler said. "In Phase 2 which is currently under construction, 25 of 27 bids are local contractors, and what that's done using local job creation using the most conservative numbers we can find is that we created 347.7 FTE's in jobs for the Missoula area."

Gaukler said there are vast open areas that can accommodate any rectangular games, such as soccer, rugby and lacrosse.

"There's an indoor-outdoor rental facility, along with two additional picnic shelters," she continued. "We can have dances, with a wooden dance floor for weddings under the pavilion. So, imagine an event at the pavilion with the fireplace and the wooden dance floor. What we're trying to do is provide something the community hasn't had before."

The South Reserve Overhead Walking Bridge will have its own ribbon cutting at 12:00 noon on Saturday.

The grand opening celebration for Phase 1 is scheduled for Saturday from noon to 4:00 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1:00 p.m. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

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