By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A committee looking into building a special events center in Havre has formed subcommittees to evaluate six different sites proposed for the facility.
The results of their review - and the cost of building at each location - will be presented at a series of public meetings.
"This is the most exciting thing I've heard discussed in Havre," former Havre High School athletics director Charlie Klimas said at a committee meeting Monday. "If 40 years ago our city fathers had seen fit to do this, our city would be very different today."
The group plans to meet again next Monday to discuss the findings of the subcommittees.
The group will decide which sites to present to the public as the best locations for a center. After that it will probably meet with local service groups and organizations and then hold meetings for the general public, the group said.
"A lot of things have to be done before we go forward," Havre Mayor Bob Rice said.
The committee, which was organized by the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, scheduled Monday's meeting with local business people after a copy of a consultant's final report on the project became available. The report is available at the Havre-Hill County Library, at the chamber and at the Montana State University-Northern Vande Bogart Library.
The committee, consisting of representatives of the city of Havre, Hill County, Havre Public Schools, MSU-Northern, Bear Paw Development Corp. and the chamber, commissioned the study in 2003 to determine if Havre and Hill County could support a center to house athletic and cultural events, similar to MetraPark in Billings or Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.
The study found that Havre could support a center, and proposed as a two-story building with seating for 6,000 people, a main floor that could house athletic events, trade shows, conventions andconcerts, and a dividable space that would provide two 2,500-square-foot meeting rooms.
The estimated cost of building the center is $14.5 million, which would vary with site location and exact specifications of the center.
The study said the center would generate up to $10 million in direct spending in the local economy a year.
Dennis Morgan of Havre said he assumes the center will be paid for by the taxpayers, and suggested the committee determine how much each taxpayer would have to pay before it pitches the center to the public.
Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development, said some private investment could be involved, but taxpayers have to approve and help pay for the project.
"We're going to have to build this the old-fashioned way," Tuss said.
Russ Getten of Havre said rich sponsors could contribute if their name would end up on the building.
The group created a subcommittee to determine what transportation infrastructure, electricity and water and sewer service is available at each of the six sites studied. A subcommittee also was created to estimate the cost of building at each site and what that would translate to for taxpayers if the center was paid for with a bond issue.
"Those are numbers we've got to have before we go very public," Tuss said.
The study examined and rated six sites proposed to hold the center, finding that the best site would be at the area Quantum Five has proposed building a golf course and resort just east of Havre if the resort is actually built. If the resort is not built, that site drops to the lowest rating in the study.
Other sites include land near Kmart west of Havre, land north of Havre Middle School, a site on the MSU-N campus, and land on the Hill County Fairgrounds parking lot.
The analysis in the study does not include the cost of acquiring the property or preparing the site and upgrading infrastructure.
MSU-N Vice Chancellor Chuck Jensen said the university is interested in having the center built on campus, near the Student Union Building. That could enhance the center by allowing use of the SUB for conference rooms during events and using the university food service for events at the center, he said.
Others at the meeting raised concerns about the availability of parking on campus - the tentative plans require about 17 acres of land for the center and its parking lot - and the ability of streets in the area to handle the traffic needed to take people to and from events.
Klimas said parking is key to an events center's success. That was one reason Havre couldn't host many athletic events, and saw them hosted at towns with better facilities, he said.
Parking and routes to and from the center will be important for other events as well, he added. If people are driving from Medicine Hat, Alberta, or Great Falls to go to a concert or some other event, they will want to be able to get in, find parking, and get out quickly, he said.