Missoula County postpones second round of fairgrounds bonds until January

Commissioners approved issuing the first round of bonds, valued at $6 million, last July to begin funding roughly $14.5 million in renovations associated with Phase 1 work at the fairgrounds. (Missoula Current file photo)

Missoula County commissioners this week agreed to postpone the second round of bonds to fund renovations at the fairgrounds until later next month.

Commissioners approved issuing the first round of bonds, valued at $6 million, last July to begin funding roughly $14.5 million in renovations associated with Phase 1 work at the fairgrounds.

They had intended to issue a second round of bonds this month to cover remaining costs, though Andrew Czorny, the county’s chief financial officer, said the timing was off.

“There’s about $14 billion to $16 billion in paper coming to market in the last two weeks of December,” he told commissioners this week. “The competition would have been fierce. Everyone is trying to get their bills in by the end of the year.”

The county launched renovations last year after commissioners adopted a special district for the fairgrounds. It issued Series 2019 bonds for the principal amount of $6 million in July.

To date, the work has included roughly $3.9 million in preservation work on the historic Commercial Building, and $1.39 million for a new concessions building. Phase 1 also includes utility work, a new maintenance shop, a new learning center, and trails and landscaping, among other things.

The county will fund remaining costs in Phase 1 by issuing what Czorny described as “Definitive Bonds,” valued at around $7.2 million. It had intended to do so before Dec. 27, when the Series 2019 note matures.

Czorny said the delay will cost about $11,000 in interest. The bonds would be available to local investors.

“We’re making it available to local investors first, and we’ll make it available to institutional investors the day after,” he said. “We plan on closing on Jan. 16.”

Other funding components are also in play. The Missoula Redevelopment Agency, with approval of the City Council, agreed this summer to reimburse the county $1.15 million for trail work and efforts to connect the fairgrounds to the surrounding Midtown district.

In July, the fairgrounds also launched a survey of area residents, seeking their vision for the property and how to fund it. While the results of the survey haven’t been publicly released, the intent was to identify the public’s appetite for “alternative funding sources” needed to kick off Phase 2.

That could include a livestock center, a rodeo arena, a new and expanded Glacier Ice Rink, and 10 acres of open space. The uses were included in the new fairgrounds master plan adopted by the county in 2016, which underwent a lengthy public review process.