Havre Daily News
Community leaders and residents got a look Monday at what a proposed special events center in Havre may look like.
Marty Byrnes, an architect with CTA in Great Falls, presented preliminary drawings of the facility to a group that gathered in the U.S. Bank meeting room to discuss the project.
Many in attendance spoke in favor of the Hill County Fairgrounds as the site for the center, but committee members have not yet ruled out the Montana State University-Northern campus. The two sites were chosen from a list of six on Feb. 14. Two years ago, a study by Minneapolis-based Creative Sports and Leisure determined the area could support a 6,000-seat arena.
"I am going to strongly suggest putting this at the fairgrounds," site committee member Steve Chvilicek said, adding that he could change his mind if talks with MSU-N officials yielded new financing possibilities.
Committee co-chair Craig Tilleman said there are several concerns with locating the building on the MSU-N campus, including accessibility and increased traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.
"We're worried about dumping 4,000 people into two neighborhoods," he said.
"I think we would get more support from the county (residents) if we included this in a master plan for the fairgrounds instead of just concentrating on this one building," Hill County Commissioner Mike Anderson said.
Several people in attendance said they supported the idea of including the center in plans to revamp the fairgrounds. The Great Northern Fair Board voted two weeks ago to approve the possibility of locating the center at the fairgrounds in the area now occupied by the 4-H exhibit buildings and the chuck wagon.
"I think you could get the ag community more involved," Stockman Bank president Chuck Wimmer said. "That way it's not just a Havre facility. I think it might be an easier sell."
The committee is considering going to the public with a bond issue in November 2006 to pay for the facility, though other possibilities, including soliciting private donations, have not been ruled out.
Charlie Grant said local American Indian communities should be included in plans for the center, which could be used to hold powwows, and added that utilizing the facility as a cultural center could provide additional opportunities for funding.
The plans Byrnes presented were for a facility designed to host spectator events like basketball games. It would include retractable seating on the ground floor and a mezzanine level above, which would provide optimal views of the events, Byrnes said. A one-story conference section would be located just beyond the entrance and would feature 5,000 square feet of conference space that could be divided into two rooms.
The drawings will be modified based on what site is chosen and the types of events to be held there.
"This is a concept to start with," Byrnes said. "These are plans that we're going to continue to go back to and discuss. The plan is going to evolve based on what you want to do. As we go through the process, we're going to get into more detail."
Byrnes said saline seep, which is an issue at the fairgrounds, would not cause problems for the building itself. The problem is caused when rising groundwater brings salt to the surface and evaporates, leaving a deposit on the surface.
Havre public works director Dave Peterson said he would be more concerned with the saline seep damaging a paved parking lot at the fairgrounds.
Byrnes added that the loose soil in north-central Montana is of poor quality for such large construction projects. Engineers will perform drilling tests prior to construction to determine the best type of foundation for the facility.
"We have poor soil and we know we're going to have to deal with it," he said.