The specifics of the planned Stillwater County Events Complex

Thursday, February 4, 2021
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Graphic by Drea Howard

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The planned Stillwater County Events Complex is drawing questions from some of the public regarding what it is and if it is even needed.

In an effort to provide a clear and specific look at the planned project, he News has broken the complex down into square footage, along with intended and possible uses for the many different spaces the complex would feature.

The word “complex” is being used to describe all structures on the 20-acre plot of land located across I-90 immediately across from Columbus. Those structures include a multi-functional civic center, an outdoor arena, a lot of parking and some type of building to house the county weed and facilities offices.


The approximately 58,000 square foot multi-functional, 2-story, civic center will house an events area, meeting rooms and banquet/reception halls, along with all of the support services necessary to make this building multifunctional.

The events area will account for approximately 33,000 square feet of the master plan with stationary retractable bleachers and moveable seating for 3,500 to 4,000 people. The two types of seating will provide for multiple seating layouts to accommodate for events such as sporting events, concerts and trade shows.

Approximately 1,800 square feet of wash racks with overhead doors and multiple water hookups can be used for washing livestock, classic cars and more.

An approximate 8,000 square foot ancillary space has been factored into the plan to include dressing/locker rooms, restrooms, a green room and a first aide room that will accommodate anyone from athletes to entertainers.

A pre-function space will account for approximately 15,000 square feet of the civic center. This area will include public restrooms, family restrooms, ticket booths, concessions, a 2,700 square foot banquet/reception hall/meeting room and more.

Staircases and an elevator on the first floor will connect to the second level of the civic center. This multi-functional level will consist of approximately 13,000 square feet and will include a 3,500 square foot banquet/reception hall. Also on this level will be six meeting rooms that lookout over the events area. These can be used as meeting rooms or box seats for events.


An outdoor arena is included in the Events Complex. The arena will be approximately 35,000 square feet and will have bleacher seating. It can be used for events such as rodeos, horse shows or a demolition derby.


Plans for the center did not come out of thin air, nor from the hopes of the current commission.

Contrary to the claims of what some residents have recently voiced at various county meetings, feedback from the business community is largely what has shaped what is considered Phase 1 in the multi-phased FCIP plan.

For more than a year, the project has been in the hands of the FCIP committee, which is comprised of the commissioners, county economic director/planner Stephanie Ray, county facilities supervisor Jerry Bokma and citizens Jim Movius, Bill Pelton, Maurie Petterson and Burt Williams.

In June, a series of meetings termed “stakeholder input” sessions were held with the committee, Arete Design group (which is assisting the county with design plans) and the likes of the 4H & Extension Office, the county weed department, Stockgrowers Association, Beartooth Stock Association, Midland Bull Test, Sibanye-Stillwater mine, rodeo groups, equestrian groups, the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, Stillwater Swap & Shop, Town Pump and the Super 8. The following are specific needs expressed by the participants.


•A location to host two banquets every year involving between 200 to 500 people.

•A commercial kitchen.


•Training facilities for 100-plus per session, over a 4-month period.

•Occasional banquet gatherings with 200 to 300 people and a meal.


•Building systems.

•Union meetings.


•A large, multi-gathering spaces that is sub-dividable.

•A location to host events such as FFA and 4H conventions, weddings, funerals, sports, concerts, religious gatherings, auctions.

•Good, safe parking facilities.

•A commercial kitchen with adequate equipment and wares, along with adequate and attractive tables and chairs.


•A location to hold an annual banquet of approximately 125 people.

•A location to host an expo involving between 300 to 500 people. Currently, the event is maxed out at 36 booths due to space.

•Previous chamber events considered include circuses, fundraisers and farmer’s markers.


•A location to host this biannual event which draws between 600 and 1,000 people.

•A commercial kitchen is needed for the food and concessions offered.

•A location that could support multiple food trucks.


•A minimum arena size of between 100 feet by 200 feet, with wide return alleys and stock pens.

•Design to allow for ranch horse competition, cattle working facilities, team penning, working cow horse/reining, cutting and team roping.


In 2019, Commissioner Tyrel Hamilton took office, joining commissioners Mark Crago and Dennis Shupak. Also new that year was the creation of an actual Facilities Capital Improvement Plan committee. That committee spent seven months researching and crafting three possible concepts that were presented in a series of public meetings held in Absarokee, Columbus, Molt, Rapelje, Reed Point and Nye.

Attendees were told that the purpose of the meetings was for the public to let the committee know if it was on the right track. Using Post-It notes, attendees were asked to go look at each one of the three concepts located on large boards, write down any questions and comments and then leave the note stuck to the specific concept. Once everyone had a chance to do that, Crago read each Post-It note out loud and answered questions.

Additionally, a survey was also given to all attendees, and placed on the county website as well. There were 160 responses. Sixty-nine percent either agreed or strongly agreed that the county needs new office space. More than 66 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the county needs a new fairgrounds/event center facility.

On that survey, a question regarding whether or not the county was doing an adequate job at allowing for economic development had the highest level of disagreement, the lowest level of agreement and the highest level of folks neither agreeing or disagreeing of all 18 questions on the survey.

The topic of county office space and what can be done to alleviate the issue has been in the public for more than five years.