If you don't get out to the Heights or Lockwood very often, perhaps you haven't noticed that the scheduled demolition of the historic MetraPark grandstand is well underway. A few weeks ago I spotted workers on the roof removing various items and now heavy equipment has been clawing away at the structure.

Judging from the picture I took today (10/31) while stuck in Lockwood bridge road construction traffic, the former beer garden and the entire western edge of the building is now gone. The rest of the building should likely be down soon, depending on the weather.

The Billings Gazette reported the Yellowstone County Commissions plans to demolition the building in February 2020, when surveys indicated the building was deemed unsafe. Costs to update the grandstand to modern guidelines were estimated to be between $5M and $20M. Costs for building a new facility were quoted at $24M or more depending on the design. The estimated cost to tear it down was between $1M and $2M.

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OPINION: I totally understand their decision to tear down the historic structure for liability and cost-to-upgrade reasons. BUT... I would be lying if I didn't say the demolition of the MetraPark Grandstand doesn't make me kind of sad. When I walked past the facade during a scorching Montana Fair, it's shadow and "grand" stature just felt like being at a fair. A big fair! When it's gone, it will take a few years to not notice a giant bare spot at the Metra and if/when it's ever replaced, I feel like a flashy, modern-style building just won't be quite the same.

I always felt the Grandstand was under-utilized. In the decades that I've lived in the Billings area, I've only been to a couple of outdoor concerts there, and once or twice for the monster trucks. Sure, they used the building for a few events at the fair each year and maybe for one or two other things, but for 350+ days a year it just sat empty, soaking up the elements and slowly succumbing to time.

Other cities in Montana have fairly active outdoor music festivals. The Grandstand and surrounding track/field always seemed like an ideal spot for a festival, and I can think of dozens of other events that would have been fun to attend at that location. There's even a halfway decent view of Sacrifice Cliffs from the stands. Sigh. I'll miss the Grandstand and I know many of you will as well. I guess the extra parking lot will be nice?

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