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Community Leaders Plan for New Events Center

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MISSOULA -

Community leaders are paving the way for a new kind of multi-use event center in Missoula.

Chamber of Commerce officials said they've been working on building an events center for the past 20 years, but acquiring the necessary 20 acres of land proved hard to accomplish.

Chamber of commerce officials said past models for a 6,000-seat events center involved a massive amount of tax dollars.

They said this new model could be more feasible because it involves a private developer.

Missoula community leaders recently toured a 14-story events center in Boise, Idaho, which sat on just two acres in the downtown area.

"With that small of a footprint, an event center can be located just about anywhere in this community," said Kim Latrielle, President and CEO of the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce.

Latrielle said the center in Boise also includes a 256-room hotel and underground parking garage.

She said the venue was built by a private developer, who's also worked on projects in Missoula.

"What it does show us, is that we don't need 21 acres, maybe it's five or six, and maybe it's not 14, but it's five or six stories."

Now, the chamber has a proven business model to replicate in Missoula -- all that's needed is an offer from a private developer and a willing landowner.

"It's important, I think to the business community and it's pretty exciting that, you know, there's different options to look at now instead of just one," Latrielle added.

Latrielle said the events center could bring high school basketball tournaments, concerts, trade shows and even professional hockey into the community during the shoulder season.

"That new revenue with people coming to town, it drops off after football."

Latrielle said Missoula's chamber, visitors bureau and other entities sometimes bid on events two years ahead of time.

She said those bids rule out Missoula's current large-scale venue -- UM's Adams Center -- because the university doesn't know the Griz basketball schedule that far in advance.

Latrielle said the idea is to bring events to Missoula in addition to those that fill the Adams Center or the Wilma Theater.

"The goal was not to make it the same size so you would just be taking business from one place to another," Latrielle said.

Chamber of commerce officials encourage any business or land owners interested in the events center project to contact their office at 543-6623.

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