Renovations set to begin on historic Commercial Building at fairgrounds

With the 2018 Western Montana Fair now in the books, renovations to the historic Commercial Building at the Missoula County Fairgrounds will begin, starting with foundation work and the installation of an elevator.

Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $53,000 contract amendment to pay for steel and the construction of an elevator shaft in the two-story building.

“We already purchased the elevator for the Commercial Building and this is the construction and materials for the shaft,” said fairgrounds director Emily Brock Bentley. “This steel was actually purchased a while ago, which is great, because the price of steel has actually doubled since we purchased it.”

In March, the county adopted a resolution creating a special district for the fairgrounds.

That enabled the county to bond roughly $19 million to make Phase 1 improvements to the dated property and pay it back over 20 years using funds generated from three mills levied by commissioners last year.

The funding includes roughly $1.4 million in utility work and several million dollars for historic renovations. Around $640,000 is dedicated to building a maintenance shop, $1.1 million for new concessions, and $1.4 million for site grading.

The county held a ceremonial groundbreaking in May and some of the work has already begun, though efforts are now turning to the Commercial Building, which opened in 1915.

“We’re planning to start that work right away, now that the fair is over,” Bentley said. “We’re still trying to figure out if we can save the floor. We know we’re going to have to put in a slab in the Commercial Building, but we’ve just heard from so many people that the floor is special.”

Bentley said the county is working with local deconstruction services to glean ideas and determine if the floor can be salvaged.

“We won’t know until we pull it up,” she said. “We won’t be able to save the whole floor, but we’re hoping to save some of it.”

On Tuesday, commissioners also signed an $11,900 contract amendment with A&E Architects for additional design work on Fairway Drive. A sewer line will be placed beneath the access road while the road itself will be regraded to make it level with the Home Arts Building.