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Missoula’s Rocky Mountain Exploration Center set for spring groundbreaking

The Missoula Insectarium hopes to move into the new building by 2021. (Image courtesy of A&E)

With construction of the Rocky Mountain Exploration Center poised to begin in the coming months, Missoula County last week approved an agreement with Elkhorn Commissioning Group to aid in the process.

With the $63,600 contract now in place, Elkhorn will streamline the construction process.

“They basically play a role between the construction people and the sources, particularly for the technical equipment and how we’re putting that together in our new facility,” said Jerry Marks, who helped spearhead the project with the Missoula County Extension and Weed District.

Plans for the new facility were announced last April in a partnership between the Missoula Insectarium, and the Missoula County Extension and Weed District. As proposed, the 29,000-square-foot building will house the Weed District and local 4-H, which together will occupy around two-thirds of the facility.

The Missoula Insectarium will fill the remaining space, offering a classroom, a tropical butterfly house and a demonstration garden on wildflower pollinators.

“We still have a number of things to work through,” Marks said. “But we’re still trying to target the end of March or the first of April to start construction.”

Last July, the county approved the architectural and engineering agreement with A&E Architects and Jackson Contracting Group, setting the groundwork for the estimated $12.5 million project.

The Rocky Mountain Exploration Center was included in the first phase of renovations slated for the Missoula County Fairgrounds, which began nearly two years ago and continues to advance.

Elkhorn will collaborate with other project partners, including A&E, WGM Group and DCI Engineers, among others.

“March and April aren’t that far off,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier.