Havre Daily News
The group working to build a visitor/cultural center at the Hill County Fairgrounds may get a large funding boost for the center, which is part of a larger effort to revamp facilities at the fairgrounds.
A large company that does business locally has expressed interest in fully funding the center, Bear Paw Development Corp. planning director Craig Erickson said Monday.
“The door is open for further discussion,” he said after a meeting of the ad hoc committee working on a plan to construct a large special events center, also at the fairgrounds.
The visitor/cultural center will be a new home for the Great Northern Fair Board and manager, the Montana Actors' Theatre and the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, and a starting point for tours of the Wahkpa Chu'gn buffalo jump. Tours for other regional attractions, such as Bear Paw Battlefield and Fort Assinniboine, also could originate at the center.
The company, which Erickson would not identify, is waiting for more details about the project, such as when it will be built, how much it will cost, and how the company will be identified as the primary donor, he said.
Preliminary estimates put the cost of the project between $2.4 and $3 million.
During the events center committee meeting, members discussed how to proceed with raising funds for all of the planned projects at the fairgrounds.
Great Falls-based CTA Architects Engineers is in the process of developing a master plan for changes there, which will include the locations of the special events and visitor/cultural centers, improvements to the rodeo arena and 4-H buildings, paved parking and landscaping. The plan will be completed by February.
The events center committee is still discussing how to proceed with soliciting private funds for the projects.
Members discussed the possibility of offering prospective donors a “menu” of the improvements, allowing them to pick and choose which parts of the project to support. They also are looking at setting different levels of support for donors and coming up with a price tag for naming rights at the events center.
Some members voiced concern about how the committee can better work with the county fair board, and members discussed ways to involve the fair board more in the process.
“They were pretty overwhelmed with how much has been done,” committee co-chair Craig Tilleman said.
“They feel like they're kind of being left out of it,” Hill County Commissioner Mike Anderson said.
Fair board member Alma Seidel said today she is concerned about how quickly the project is moving forward, though she credited committee members with working hard for the benefit of the community.
“They've done it because they care about the future of Havre,” Seidel said. “We just want to be involved, and it's hard to see what the future is going to hold.
“It's a big undertaking, a big change,” she added. “We're trying to see how it's going to involve not only the fair board, but ... also the 4-H. It's an awful lot to have happen as quickly as it has. I know the committee is working hard. I have to admit, it's a big dream.”
The fair board will meet with Marty Byrnes of CTA today at 5 p.m. in Timmons Room at the Hill County Courthouse to discuss the master plan.
Byrnes also will meet with the visitor/cultural center committee today at 2 p.m. at Bear Paw Development Corp.