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New Convention Center Proposal

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A new convention center could be on the way for the city of Billings. The CEO of Sanderson Stewart told KULR-8 that their proposal would demolish the existing Montana Convention Center and would build a brand new one on the same site. The proposal is in the early stages and nothing is set in stone right now. Inner Circle is the company that owns the property that the convention center and the Radisson Hotel are on. Sanderson Stewart was the firm hired by Inner Circle to help develop a proposal to fix up the outdated convention center.

Michael Sanderson, the CEO of the firm, stated that there have been several studies doe on the feasibility of a convention center in Billings. He said the studies were a community effort, which identified a demand for a large, regional convention center in the city. That is what the firm is responding too. "The concept we've developed and the design that we've been developing is really in response to what the community has already said it needs. Which is a large, 80 to 100 thousand square foot convention center which could draw regional and national type conventions," said Michael Sanderson.

The current center is half the size of what the firm is proposing. Sanderson explained the discussion on a new convention center is needed. "I don't think anyone else in Montana has one comparable to what we're proposing, however, Bozeman and Missoula are developing plans for their own which would be competitive with this."

When it comes to making a decision on the proposal, Sanderson told KULR-8 that not just one body or person makes a yes or no decision. He said a convention center of the proposed size would likely only work if it was some type of public-private partnership, "There's a number of different entities that need to come together and agree on this." Some of those entities include Inner Circle and possibly the South Billings Urban Renewal District, the South Billings Tax Increment Finance District, and the Tourism and Business Improvement District.

Sanderson explained if it's a public-private partnership, Inner Circle would be an investor, as well as several other entities, which would provide funding for the project.

The proposal is for a new convention center on the same site as the current convention center. Sanderson said there does need to be conversations about whether the same site is the right site for the new convention center. His company believes the south side neighborhood and area is the right area for revitalization, "This could be a great catalyst to improving the look of that west Billings interchange kind of gateway to the community. It's a very visible entry point to the city of Billings."

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