Nearly everyone has attended an event a MetraPark. Since it first opened in 1975, the Montana Entertainment Trade and Recreation Arena has been the biggest venue in south-central Montana and has hosted literally thousands of concerts, rodeos, fairs, graduations, and trade shows.

As the facility approaches its 50th birthday, she's starting to age. The tornado that hit Billings in 2010 (and ensuing damage at MetraPark) resulted in a few new upgrades to the Arena, but many of the outlying buildings on the 189-acre facility have become outdated. A number of the old structures have been torn down in the past year, including the demolition of the grandstands.

MetraPark is looking towards the future with big ideas.

The MetraPark Advisory Board and Metra leadership launched a campaign in 2020 to help shape the future of the property. Public comment/input sessions were held around Yellowstone County with residents offering ideas on what they would like to see at the venue. One reoccurring suggestion is an amphitheater.

Image by Cushing Terrell
Image by Cushing Terrell

Other big plans are on the drawing board.

MetraPark's Vision 2025 also includes concepts like a new multi-use performance hall, an RV park/campground, a multi-purpose ag and athletics arena, easier access, and increased parking capacity.

All of these are great ideas, but what about the cost? MetraPark says,

Until final decisions have been made on new and expanded facilities, amenities, and infrastructure, determining a total cost is premature. Likewise, there are many strategies being explored to fund the project, including applying for federal and state grants, developing public-private partnerships, and bonding.

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Image by Cushing Terrell
Image by Cushing Terrell

The massive undertaking will likely take years.

Once plans are finalized and funding is approved, it may still be a while before you can sit outside on a warm summer evening, sipping on a beverage and watching your favorite band at the amphitheater. Massive construction projects simply don't happen overnight. In my opinion, this one is past due and will be well worth the wait.

Here's a cool video of what the new MetraPark campus might look like.

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