By Don Cogger
Miles City's chances of becoming the permanent home of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame may have just ridden off into the sunset.
Citing philosophical differences, the local committee created to work with the MCHF voted unanimously to remove Miles City from consideration. The decision comes on the heels of a site visit and subsequent meeting by representatives of the MHOF last week.
"At last week's meeting with the people from the Cowboy Hall of Fame, we discussed at length the vision and scope of the project and how our bid played into it," said John Laney, executive director of the Miles City Chamber of Commerce. "Following that meeting, we had a meeting of our group Tuesday night, where we decided we have substantial philosophical differences between our proposal and their proposal. With that in mind, we have sent an email to the group that was here requesting we be dropped from consideration."
One of the differences Laney alluded to are concerns about cost and the ability to attain the funds needed to make the MCHF's vision a reality. According to the preliminary plans found on the MCHF website, the hall would encompass 29 acres, with amenities including everything from an amphitheater to indoor and outdoor displays, as well as an RV and trailer campground and a dormitory for seasonal employees. The Miles City committee also expressed concerns about the constructibility and sustainability of such a facility.
But perhaps the biggest concern is how the MCHF would coexist with other local attractions in the community.
"The one difference I would like to highlight the most is that we bid a fairly substantial partnership with our preexisting museums, the Range Riders and the Art Center," Laney said. "But the MCHF's wish is to be more all-encompassing. Our fear is that it could be construed as something in more of a competitive nature to our preexisting museums than we're willing to be a part of."
Laney went on to say that while the MCHF's ideas are solid in nature, it's the wish of the Miles City group to be more collaborative, rather than have Range Riders and the Art Center compete with the hall for visitors.
"The Range Riders may not be state-of-the-art, but it certainly is world class," he said. "We have an obligation to that facility to keep it going, because those are in fact our people from the area, and keeping that history alive is imperative to all of us."
The Art Center also has great value to the community, according to Laney, and to put either facility in a compromising situation is not what the committee was wanting to do.
"We do see the west entrance as a key part of Miles City," Laney said. "In the future you'll see a more concerted effort to highlight what exists as anchor tenants for that part of town. That's where we're at right now."
The decision to withdraw from consideration brings a bittersweet end to what has been a lengthy and comprehensive process of presenting Miles City as a viable location for the MCHF. Since the passage of House Bill 528 during the legislative session last spring, Miles City, along with other interested communities across the state, have been working diligently to showcase their towns in the best possible light.
"We certainly wish them the best," Laney said. "When we went into it, we felt we had to do what was best for Miles City first in hopes this would enhance the community. While it could have brought some good, it just put us in a compromising situation morally to continue."
That said, Laney explained there will hopefully be some positives to come out of the experience, starting with the committee's realization that anchor tenants already exist at the west entrance; it's becomes a matter of generating efforts in that direction.
'The one thing I think is positive is that this has brought so much community interest," he said. "I couldn't walk downtown without being cornered about the latest news on the MCHF. The positives we see from it is maybe it's time as a group to focus our energies on improving the facilities we already have. We do intend on meeting with the Range Riders people as quickly as we possibly can to offer some assistance with marketing and things like that, if they want it. It's very much their facility. I look forward to seeing what we can do."
Big Sky, Big Timber, Livingston, Madison County, Miles City and Wolf Point were the six finalists out of ten communities that submitted a Request For Proposal document.
Published Dec. 14, 2011