Billings, Montana

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Billings, Montana
City
Billings, Montana
Billings, Montana
Flag of Billings, Montana
Flag
Official seal of Billings, Montana
Seal
Nickname(s): Magic City, Montana's Trailhead
Motto: Star of the Big Sky Country
Location in Yellowstone County and Montana
Location in Yellowstone County and Montana
Location of the state of Montana in the United States
Location of the state of Montana in the United States
Billings, Montana is located in USA
Billings, Montana
Billings, Montana
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 45°47′12″N 108°32′14″W / 45.78667°N 108.53722°W / 45.78667; -108.53722Coordinates: 45°47′12″N 108°32′14″W / 45.78667°N 108.53722°W / 45.78667; -108.53722
Country United States
State Montana
County Yellowstone
Founded 1877
Incorporated 1882
Government
 • Type Mayor-Council
 • Mayor Tom Hanel
 • City Admin. Christina "Tina" Volek
 • Governing body City Council
Area[1]
 • City 43.52 sq mi (112.72 km2)
 • Land 43.41 sq mi (112.43 km2)
 • Water 0.11 sq mi (0.28 km2)
Elevation 3,123 ft (952 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • City 104,170 (US: 256th)
 • Estimate (2013[3]) 109,059
 • Density 2,399.7/sq mi (926.5/km2)
 • Urban 114,773 (US: 273th)
 • Metro 165,361 (US: 246th)
Time zone Mountain (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) Mountain (UTC-6)
ZIP codes 59101, 59102, 59103, 59104, 59105, 59106, 59107, 59108, 59109, 59110, 59111, 59112, 59113, 59114, 59115, 59116, 59117[4]
Area code(s) 406
FIPS code 30-06550
GNIS feature ID 0802034
Highways I-90.svg I-94.svg US 87.svg
Website www.cityofbillings.net

Billings is the largest city in the State of Montana, and is the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Area with a population of 165,361.[5] It has a trade area of over half a million people.[6]

Billings is located in the south-central portion of the state and is the county seat of Yellowstone County, which had a 2013 population of 154,162 [7] The 2013 Census estimates put the Billings population at 109,059[3] the only city in Montana to surpass 100,000 people. The city is experiencing rapid growth and a strong economy; it has had and is continuing to have the largest growth of any city in Montana. Parts of the metro area are seeing hyper growth. From 2000 to 2010 Lockwood, a southeastern suburb of the city saw growth of 57.8% the largest growth rate of any community in Montana.[8] Billings has avoided the economic downturn that affected most of the nation 2008–2012 as well as avoiding the housing bust.[9][10] With the Bakken oil play in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, the largest oil discovery in U.S. history,[11][12] as well as the Heath shale oil play just north of Billings,[13] the city's already rapid growth rate is escalating.[14][15]

Billings was nicknamed the Magic City because of its rapid growth from its founding as a railroad town in March 1882. The city is named for Frederick H. Billings, a former president of the Northern Pacific Railroad. With one of the largest trade areas in the United States,[16] Billings is the trade and distribution center for most of Montana, Northern Wyoming and western portions of North Dakota and South Dakota. Billings is also the retail destination for much of the same area. With more hotel accommodations than any area within a five state region, the city hosts a variety of conventions, concerts, sporting events and other rallies.[16]

Area attractions include Pompey's Pillar, Pictograph Cave, Chief Plenty Coups State Park, Zoo Montana, Yellowstone Art Museum. Within 100 miles are Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Red Lodge Mountain Resort and the Beartooth Highway which links Red Lodge to Yellowstone National Park.

History[edit]

Prehistory[edit]

The downtown core and much of the rest of Billings is in the Yellowstone Valley which is a canyon carved out by the Yellowstone River. Around 80 million years ago, the Billings area was on the shore of the Western Interior Seaway. The sea deposited sediment and sand around the shoreline. As the sea retreated it left behind a deep layer of sand. Over millions of years this sand was compressed into stone that is known as Eagle Sandstone. Over the last million years the river has carved its way down through this stone to form the canyon walls that are known as the Billings Rimrocks or the Rims.[17]

About five miles south of downtown are the Pictograph Caves. These caves contain over 100 pictographs (rock paintings), the oldest of which is over 2000 years old. Approximately 30,000 artifacts (including stone tools and weapons) have been excavated from the site.[18] These excavations have indicated that the area has been occupied since at least 2600 BCE until after 1800 CE.[19]

The Crow Indians have called the Billings area home since about 1700. The present day Crow Nation is just south of Billings.[20]

Lewis and Clark Expedition[edit]

William Clark’s inscription on Pompeys Pillar

In July 1806, William Clark (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) passed through the Billings area. On July 25 he arrived at what is now known as Pompeys Pillar and wrote in his journal "... at 4 P M arrived at a remarkable rock ... this rock I ascended and from its top had a most extensive view in every direction."[21] Clark carved his name and the date into the rock, leaving the only remaining physical evidence of the expedition that is visible along their route. He named the place Pompy’s Tower, naming it after the son of his Shoshone interpreter and guide Sacajawea. In 1965, Pompeys Pillar was designated as a national historic landmark, and was proclaimed a national monument in January 2001. An interpretive center has been built next to the monument.[22]

Coulson / Billings[edit]

The area where Billings is today was once known as Clarks Fork Bottom. Clarks Fork Bottom was to be the hub for hauling freight to Judith and Musselshell Basins. At the time these were some of the most productive areas of the Montana Territory. The plan was to run freight up Alkali Creek, now part of Billings Heights, to the basins and Fort Benton on the Hi-Line.[citation needed]

In 1877 settlers from the Gallatin Valley area of the Montana Territory formed Coulson the first town of the Yellowstone Valley.[23] The town was started when John Alderson built a sawmill and convinced PW McAdow to open a general store and trading post on land that Alderson owned on the bank of the Yellowstone River. The store went by the name of Headquarters and soon other buildings and tents were being built as the town began to grow. At this time before the coming of the railroad, most goods coming to and going from the Montana Territory were carried on paddle riverboats. It is believed that it was decided to name the new town Coulson in an attempt to attract the Coulson Packet Company that ran riverboats between St Louis and many points in the Montana Territory. In spite of their efforts the river was traversed only once by paddle riverboat to the point of the new town.

Coulson was a rough town of dance halls and saloons and not a single church. The town needed a sheriff and the famous mountain man John "Liver-Eating" Johnson took the job. Many disagreements were settled with a gun in the coarse Wild West town. Soon a graveyard was needed and Boothill Cemetery was created. It was called Boothill because most of the people in it were said to have died with their boots on. Boothill Cemetery today sits within the city limits of Billings and is the only remaining physical evidence of Coulson's existence.

When the railroad came to the area Coulson residents were sure the town would become the railroads hub and Coulson would soon be the Territories largest city. The railroad only had claim to odd sections and it had two sections side-by-side about two miles west of Coulson. Being able to make far more money by creating a new town on these two sections the railroad decided to create the new town of Billings, For a short time the two towns existed side-by-side with a trolley even running between the two. However most of the residents of Coulson ended up moving to the new booming town of Billings. In the end Coulson faded away with the last remains of the town disappearing in the 1930s. Today Coulson Park, a Billings city park, sits on the river bank where Coulson once was.[24]

Early railroad town[edit]

Named after Northern Pacific Railway president Frederick H. Billings Billings was founded in 1882. The Railroad formed the city as a western railhead for it farther westward expansion. At first the new town had only three buildings but within just a few months it had grown to over 2000. This spurred the Billings nickname of the Magic City because like magic it seemed to appear overnight.[23][25]

Panoramic view of downtown Billings 1915. View is to the east and south from a high point at the intersection of North 28th Street (street extending away in the right half of the photo) and 3rd Avenue North (street extending away in the left half of the photo).

The nearby town of Coulson appeared a far more likely site. Coulson was a rough and tumble town where arguments were often followed by gunplay. Liver-Eating Johnston was a lawman in Coulson.[26] Perhaps the most famous person to be buried in Coulsons Boothill cemetery is Muggins Taylor,[27] the scout who carried the news of Custer's Last Stand to the world. Most buried here were said to have died with their boots on. The town of Coulson had been situated on the Yellowstone River, which made it ideal for the commerce that steamboats brought up the river. However, when the Montana & Minnesota Land Company oversaw the development of potential railroad land, they ignored Coulson, and platted the new town of Billings just a couple of miles to the Northwest. Coulson quickly faded away; most of her residents were absorbed into Billings. Yet for a short time the two towns co-existed: a trolley even ran between the two. But ultimately there was no future for Coulson as Billings grew. Though it stood on the banks of the Yellowstone River only a couple of miles from the heart of present day Downtown Billings, the city of Billings never built on the land where Coulson once stood. Today Coulson Park sits along the banks of the Yellowstone where the valley's first town once stood.[23]

20th century[edit]

By the 1910 census, Billings' population had risen to 10,031 ranking it the sixth-fastest growing community in the nation.[23] Billings became an energy center in the early years of the twentieth century with the discovery of oil fields in Montana and Wyoming. Then the discovery of large natural gas and coal reserves secured the city's rank as first in energy.[23]

The First Interstate Tower, built in 1985 and standing at 272 feet, is the tallest building in Montana.[28]

After World War II, Billings boomed into the major financial, medical and cultural center of the region. Billings has had rapid growth from its founding; in its first 50 years growth was at times in the 300 and 400 percentile.[29]

Billings' growth has remained robust throughout the years, and in the 1950s, it had a growth rate of 66.0%.[citation needed] The 1973 oil embargo by OPEC spurred an oil boom in eastern Montana, northern Wyoming and western North Dakota. With this increase in oil production, Billings became the headquarters for energy sector companies. In 1975 and 1976, the Colstrip coal-fire generation plants 1 and 2 were completed; plants 3 and 4 started operating in 1984 and 1986.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Billings saw major growth in its downtown core; the first high-rise buildings to be built in Montana were erected. In 1980, the 22-floor Sheraton Hotel was completed. Upon its completion, it was declared "the tallest load-bearing brick masonry building in the world" by the Brick Institute of America.[30] During the 1970s and 1980s, other major buildings were constructed in the downtown core;[31] the Norwest Building (now Wells Fargo), Granite Tower, Sage Tower, the MetraPark arena, the TransWestern Center, many new city-owned parking garages, and the First Interstate Tower, the tallest building in a five-state area.[32]

President Kennedy in Billings, September 25, 1963

With the completion of large sections of the interstate system in Montana in the 1970s, Billings became a shopping destination for an ever larger area. The 1970s and 1980s saw new shopping districts and shopping centers developed in the Billings area. In addition to the other shopping centers developed, two new malls were developed, and Rimrock Mall was redeveloped and enlarged, on what was then the city's west end. Cross Roads Mall was built in Billings Heights, and West Park Plaza mall in midtown. In addition, several new business parks were developed on the city's west end during this period.

Billings was affected by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in May; the city received about an inch of ash on the ground.[33] The Yellowstone fires of 1988 blanketed Billings in smoke for weeks.[34]

In the 1990s, the service sector in the city increased with the development of new shopping centers built around big box stores such as Target, Wal Mart and Office Depot, all of which built multiple outlets in the Billings area. With the addition of more interchange exits along I-90, additional hotel chains and service industry outlets are being built in Billings. Development of business parks and large residential developments on the city's west end, South Hills area, Lockwood, and the Billings Heights were all part of the 1990s. Billings received the All-America City Award in 1992.

21st century[edit]

4th Ave. N., and N. 28th St. Intersection, Downtown
Central downtown and EBURD district

In the 21st century, Billings saw the development of operations centers in the city's business parks and downtown core by such national companies as GE, Wells Fargo and First Interstate Bank. It also saw renewed growth in the downtown core with the addition of numerous new buildings, new parking garages and a new MET Transit Center and in 2002 Skypoint was completed. Downtown also saw a renaissance of the historic areas within the downtown core as building after building was restored to its previous glory. In 2007, Billings was designated a Preserve America Community.[35] With the completion of the Shiloh interchange exit off Interstate 90, The TransTech Center was developed[36] and yet more hotel development as well. In 2010 the Shiloh corridor was open for business with the completion of the Shiloh parkway, a 4.8-mile (7.7 km) multi-lane street with eight roundabouts.[37] Even more shopping centers were developed in the 21st century. Some of the new centers are Shiloh Crossing which brought the first Kohl's[38] department store to Montana. Shiloh Crossing has also announced that Scheels will be constructing what is being billed as the second largest sporting goods store in the western United States and the second largest Scheels in the world.[39] Other new centers include Billings Town Square with Montana's first Cabela's,[40] and West Park Promenade, Montana's first open-air shopping mall. In 2009, Fortune Small Business magazine named Billings the best small city in which to start a business.[6][41] Billings saw continued growth with the largest actual growth of any city in Montana. On June 20, 2010 (Father's Day), a tornado, dubbed by the media the Fathers Day Tornado,[42] touched down in the downtown core and Heights sections of Billings. The Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark and area businesses suffered major damage. While the nation has been feeling the effects of a recession, Billings's economy has been strong. Construction and housing starts have been up as well as large investments in the community by national companies and major new road construction projects. The state's economy is healthier than most states but as western Montana is suffering from a crash in real estate and the near demise of its timber industry, eastern Montana and North Dakota are experiencing an energy boom due to coal and the Bakken formation the largest oil discovery in U.S. history.[11][12][15] Billings is Montana's oasis of economic growth.[6][10]

Geography[edit]

The Rims border the north and east edges of the downtown core

Billings is located at 45°47′12″N 108°32′14″W / 45.78667°N 108.53722°W / 45.78667; -108.53722 (45.786553, −108.537139),[43] with two-thirds of the city being in the Yellowstone Valley and the South Hills area and one-third being in the Heights-Lockwood area. The city is divided by the Rims, long cliffs, also called the Rimrocks. The Rims run to the north and east of the downtown core, separating it from the Heights to the north and Lockwood to the east, with the cliffs to the north being 500 feet (150 m) tall and to the east of downtown, the face rises 800 feet (240 m). The Yellowstone River runs through the southeast portion of the city. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 43.52 square miles (112.72 km2), of which, 43.41 square miles (112.43 km2) is land and 0.11 square miles (0.28 km2) is water.[1]

Around Billings, six mountain ranges can be viewed. The Bighorn Mountains with over 200 lakes and two peaks that rise to over 13,000 feet (3,960 m) Cloud Peak (13,167 ft, 4013 m) and Black Tooth Mountain (13,005 ft, 3964 m).[44] The Pryor Mountains directly south of Billings rise to a height of 8,822 feet and are unlike any other landscape in Montana. They are also home the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.[45] The Beartooth Mountains are the location of Granite Peak, which at 12,807 feet (3,904 m) is the highest point in the state of Montana. The Beartooth Highway a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks, along the Montana-Wyoming border rises to 10,947 feet. It was called "the most beautiful drive in America" by Charles Kuralt.[46] The Beartooth Mountains are just northeast of Yellowstone National Park. The Crazy Mountains to the west, rise to a height of 11,209 feet at Crazy Peak the tallest peak in the range.[47] Big Snowy Mountains with peaks of 8,600 feet are home to Crystal Lake.[48] The Bull Mountains are a low lying heavily forested range north of Billings Heights.

Climate[edit]

Billings has a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk),[49] with hot summers, and cold, dry winters. In the summer, the temperature can rise to over 100 °F (38 °C) (1 to 3 times per year)[50][51] while the winter can bring temperatures below zero (−17 °C), with 17 to 18 such nights per year.[50] The snowfall averages about 57 inches a year, but because of warm Chinook winds that pass through the region between December and March, the snow does not usually accumulate heavily or remain on the ground for long. The first freeze of the season on average arrives by October 4 and the last is May 7.[52] Spring and autumn in Billings are usually mild, but brief. Winds, while strong at times, are considered light compared with the rest of Montana and the Rocky Mountain front.

Lightning near the airport, April 2007

Severe weather[edit]

As the city is far from Tornado Alley, tornadoes are uncommon in Billings, though it is not immune from severe weather. In most cases, severe storms travel fast at 25 to 30 miles per hour and either veer to the north or south of the city. The first recorded tornado to touch down in Billings was on June 2, 1958. On June 20, 2010, a tornado dubbed the Fathers Day Tornado[42] touched down in the Billings Heights and Downtown sections of the city. The tornado was accompanied by hail up to golf ball size, dangerous cloud to ground lightning, and heavy winds. The tornado destroyed a number of businesses and severely damaged the 12,000-seat Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.[54]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 145
1880 587 304.8%
1890 836 42.4%
1900 3,211 284.1%
1910 10,031 212.4%
1920 15,100 50.5%
1930 16,386 8.5%
1940 23,216 41.7%
1950 31,834 37.1%
1960 52,851 66.0%
1970 61,581 16.5%
1980 66,798 8.5%
1990 81,151 21.5%
2000 89,847 10.7%
2010 104,170 15.9%
Est. 2013 109,059 4.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[55]
2013 Estimate[56]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 104,170 people, 43,945 households, and 26,194 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,399.7 inhabitants per square mile (926.5 /km2). There were 46,317 housing units at an average density of 1,067.0 per square mile (412.0 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 89.6% White, 0.8% African American, 4.4% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.2% of the population.

There were 43,945 households of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.4% were non-families. 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.90.

The median age in the city was 37.5 years. 22.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.3% were from 25 to 44; 26.3% were from 45 to 64; and 15% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.3% male and 51.7% female.

Income[edit]

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $35,147, and the median income for a family was $45,032. Males had a median income of $32,525 versus $21,824 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,207. About 9.2% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over. 29.4% of the population had a Bachelor's degree or higher.

Sections[edit]

Granite Tower 3rd and 32nd downtown

Billings has many sections that comprise the whole of the city. Because of the unique geography of Billings many of these sections are defined by actual physical characteristics of the terrain. For example; the Heights is separated from Downtown by a 500-foot (150 m) cliff known as the (Rims).

There are currently 11 official first level of districts called "sections" within the city limits of Billings, Montana.

Neighborhoods and zones[edit]

The city's neighborhoods make up the soul of Billings. The south side of Billings is probably the oldest residential area in the city, and it is the city’s most culturally diverse Neighborhood. South Park is an old growth City park, host to several food fairs and festivals in the summer months. The Bottom Westend Historic District is home to many of Billings first mansions. Mid-town, the most densely populated portion of the city is in the midst of gentrification on a level that few if any areas in Montana have ever seen. Or even Josephine Crossing, one of Billings' many new contemporary neighborhoods.

Surrounding areas[edit]

Billings is the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Statistical Area. The metropolitan area consists of two counties, Yellowstone and Carbon County.[57] The population of the entire metropolitan area was estimated at 165,361 as of the 2013 census estimate.[58]

Government[edit]

City Council:[59]
Mayor Tom Hanel
Ward 1 Brent Cromley / Mike Yakawich
Ward 2 Angela Cimmino / Denis Pitman
Ward 3 Richard McFadden / Becky Bird
Ward 4 Jani McCall / Al Swanson
Ward 5 Ken Crouch / Shaun Brown
James F. Battin Federal Courthouse

Billings is the county seat of Yellowstone County, the most populous county in Montana.[60] It is also the location of the James F. Battin Federal Courthouse, one of five federal courthouses for the District of Montana.[61]

Billings is governed via the mayor council system. There are ten members of the city council who are elected from one of five wards with each ward electing two members. The mayor is elected in a citywide vote. The current city charter, also called the Billings, Montana City Code (BMCC) was established 1977.

Public safety[edit]

The Billings Police Department is the main law enforcement agency in Billings. It is the largest city police force in Montana, with about 136 sworn officers and 80 civilian employees. There are nine police beats.

The Billings Fire Department was first founded in 1883 as a volunteer fire company named the Billings Fire Brigade. In 1886, the Yellowstone Hook and Ladder Company was founded; that company was disbanded in 1888 after the mayor criticized the group for how that handled a fire, leaving the town without a fire department for almost six months.[62] The last volunteer fire company, Maverick Hose Company, served as the city's fire department until 1918.[63] The modern fire department has seven stations, employs 114 people, and has been given a class three rating by ISO.[64]

American Medical Response (AMR) provides emergency medical services at the paramedic care level in Billings, and supports other agencies throughout Yellowstone County.

Tallest buildings in Billings[edit]

Today, the tallest building in Billings and Montana as well as a five state region is the First Interstate Center, which stands at 272 feet (83 m) and 20 floors above ground level.[65] Billings is also home to the tallest load-bearing brick Building in the world, the Crowne Plaza, which stands 256 feet (78 m). With a floor count of 22 floors above ground level the Crowne Plaza is the tallest hotel in the city and state. It was the tallest from 1980 to 1985. The Wells Fargo Building, formerly the Norwest Bank Building, was the tallest building in Montana from 1977 till 1980.[66]

Economy[edit]

The geographic location of Billings was essential to its economic success. Billings' future as a major trade and distribution center was basically assured from its founding as a railroad hub due to its geographic location. As Billings quickly became the region's economic hub it outgrew the other cities in the region. The Billings trade area serves over a half million people.[6] A major trade and distribution center, the city is home to many regional headquarters and corporate headquarters. With Montana having no sales tax, Billings is a retail destination for much of Wyoming, North and South Dakota as well as most of Montana. $1 out of every $7 spent on retail purchases in Montana is being spent in Billings.The percentage of wholesale business transactions done in Billings is even stronger, Billings accounts for more than a quarter of the wholesale business for the entire state, these figures do not include Billings portion of sales for Wyoming and the Dakotas.[67] Billings is an energy center; Billings sits amidst the largest coal reserves in the United States as well as large oil and natural gas fields.

Wells Fargo Center

In 2009, Fortune Small Business magazine named Billings the best small city in which to start a business.[41] Billings has a diverse economy including a large and rapidly growing medical corridor that includes inpatient and outpatient health care. Billiings has a large service sector including retail, hospitality and entertainment. The metro area is also home to 3 oil refineries, a sugar beet refining plant, a coal fire generation plant, commercial and residential construction, building materials manufacturing and distribution, professional services, financial services, banking, trucking, higher education (4 campuses, 19 others have a physical presence/classes here), auto parts wholesaling and repair services, passenger and cargo air, cattle, media, printing, wheat and barley farming, sugar beet refining, milk processing, heavy equipment sales and service, business services, consumer services, food distribution, agricultural chemical manufacturing and distribution, energy exploration and production, surface and underground mining, metal fabrication, and many others providing a diverse and robust economy.

Corporate headquarters include Stillwater Mining Company, Kampgrounds of America, First Interstate Bank, Computers Unlimited, Tire-Rama, Western Plains Machinery, Tractor & Equipment Co., Optimum, Corporate Air, Employee Benefits Management Services, Edwards Jet Service, Waggoners Trucking, Meadowlark Agency, Ryan Restaurant Corp., CTA Architects & Engineers, JGA Architects, HKM Engineering, Electrical Consultants Inc. engineering, WorleyParsons Engineering, Energy Labs, and others.[16] Fortune 500 firms with branch operations in Billings include Exxon/Mobil, Wal-mart, GM, CHS Inc, Conoco-Phillips, Ford, Wells Fargo, General Electric, USBank, Travelers, BNSF, Pennsylvania Power & Light, MDU Resources, Sears/K-Mart, Target Corporation, New York Life, Morgan Stanley.[16]

Infrastructure[edit]

The Billings Canal, used for irrigation, runs through Billings.

Transportation[edit]

Airports[edit]

Billings Logan International Airport is close to downtown; it sits on top of the Rims, a 500-foot (150 m) cliff overlooking the downtown core.

The Laurel Municipal Airport is a publicly owned public-use airport in Laurel, Montana, which is located eleven miles (17 km) southwest of downtown Billings. The airport has three runways exclusively serving privately operated general aviation aircraft and helicopters.[68]

Public Transportation[edit]

Downtown MET transit center

The Billings METropolitan Transit is the public transit system in Billings. MET Transit provides fixed-route and paratransit bus service to the City of Billings. All MET buses are accessible by citizens who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices. They are wheelchair lift-equipped and accessible to all citizens that are unable to use the stairs. MET buses are equipped with bike racks for their bike riding passengers. There are Westend and Downtown transit centers allowing passengers to connect with all routs.[69] There are also numerous Taxicab and Limousine services within the city.[70] The Billings Bus Terminal is served by Greyhound has well as Rimrock Trailways which also provides regional and interstate bus service.[71][72]

Trail System[edit]

Swords Park Trail

Billings has an extensive trail system running throughout the metro area. The rapidly expanding trail system known as the Heritage trail system has a large variety of well maintained trails and pathways[73]

Bicycling magazine ranked Billings among the nation's 50 most bike friendly communities.[74] In 2012, the Swords Park Trail was named the Montana State Trail of the Year and received an Environmental and Wildlife Compatibility award from the Coalition for Recreational Parks.[75]

Highways[edit]

US-87 in Billings Heights

Interstate 90 runs east/west through the southern portion of Billings, serving as a corridor between the Heights, Lockwood and Downtown, South Hills, Westend, Shiloh, and Laurel. East of Downtown, between the Heights and Lockwood, Interstate 90 connects with Interstate 94 which serves as an east/west corridor between Shepherd, Huntley and Heights, Lockwood, Downtown, South Hills, Westend, Shiloh, Laurel via its connection with I-90.

The 2012 Billings area I-90 corridor planning study recommends many improvements to the corridor from Laurel through Lockwood, Among the improvements recommended are construction of a new east and west bound bridges over the Yellowstone River each bridge having three to four traffic lanes. Also recommended are construction of additional east bound and additional west bound traffic lanes from Shiloh to Johnson Lane and reconstruction of many of the bridges, interchanges and on-off ramps along the corridor at a cost of 114 million dollars.[76]

The Billings Bypass is a project designed to offer an alternative route into the Billings Heights, to create a new and more direct connection between Billings and Lockwood and to connect I-90 with state highway 87 and old highway 312. The study portion of the project is nearing its completion. Right of way acquisition should begin in 2013 along with final design followed by construction.[77]

Montana Highway 3 is a north/south highway that runs along the edge of the North Rims connecting Downtown and the Westend with the Rehberg Ranch, Indian Cliffs and the Heights. U.S. Highway 87 runs through the center of Billings Heights and is known as Main Street within the city limits, this is the busiest section of roadway in the state of Montana.[78] It connects to U.S. Highway 87 East which runs through Lockwood as Old Hardin Road.[79]

Healthcare[edit]

The Billings Metropolitan Area has two Level II trauma hospitals, St. Vincent Healthcare and Billings Clinic.[80]

St. Vincent Healthcare was founded in 1898 by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth as St. Vincent Hospital. The name was changed to the present name in 2000.[81] The hospital and its 30 clinics currently employ approximately 2,100 people and experience more that 400,000 patient visits per year.[82] St. Vincent Healthcare is run by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, which operates health care facilities in California, Colorado, Kansas, and Montana.[83]

Billings Clinic started in 1911 as the general practice of Dr. Arthur J. Movius. By 1939, three new general practitioners had joined Dr. Movius's practice and the name was changed to The Billings Clinic. Billings Deaconess Hospital (founded in 1907) merged with Billings Clinic in 1990 to form the current hospital.[84] Billings Clinic currently employs around 3,400 people and is one of the largest employers in all of Montana.[85] In July 2012, Billings Clinic received a score of 72/100 for patient safety from Consumer Reports, making it the safest hospital out of the 1,159 hospitals rated.[86] Additionally, in January 2013, Billings Clinic was added to the Mayo Clinic Care Network, only the 12 hospital nationally to be added to the network and the only health system in Montana.[87]

Other medical facilities include the Northern Rockies Radiation Oncology Center, Rimrock Foundation (addiction treatment both inpatient and outpatient), Advanced Care Hospital of Montana (a 40-bed long term acute care hospital), South Central Montana Mental Health Center, Billings VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic, Billings Clinic Research Center (pharmaceutical field trials, osteoporosis are two long-time focuses), Billings MRI, City/County Public Health's Riverstone Health, HealthSouth Surgery Center and Physical Therapy offices, Baxter/Travenol BioLife plasma collection center, and many independent practices.

Education[edit]

Primary and secondary[edit]

Public[edit]

The education needs of the City of Billings are served by three school districts: Billings Public Schools, District 3, and Elder Grove School District. Billings Public Schools consists of 22 elementary schools, 4 middle schools, and 3 high schools (Senior High, Skyview High, and West High). There are around 15,715 students enrolled and 1,850 people employed full-time by the district.[88] District 3 consists of one elementary school, Blue Creek Elementary School.[89] Elder Grove School District also consists of only one elementary school, that being Elder Grove Elementary.[90]

Private[edit]

  • The Billings Catholic Schools operates Billings Central Catholic High School (grades 9–12), St. Francis Upper (grades 6–8), St Francis Intermediate (grades 3–5), St Francis Primary, (K-2) and St Francis Daycare
  • Trinity Lutheran Church operates Trinity Lutheran School, serving grades K-8
  • Billings Christian Schools serving grades K-12
  • Adelphi Christian Academy serving grades K-12 (Closed at the end of the 2009 School Year)
  • Billings Educational Academy serving grades K-12
  • Grace Montessori Academy serves Pre-6[91]

Colleges and universities[edit]

There are three institutions of higher learning in Billings. (Montana State University Billings) is part of the state system. Rocky Mountain College and Yellowstone Baptist College are private.

Montana State University Billings was founded in 1927 as Eastern Montana Normal College to train teachers. The name was shortened to Eastern Montana College in 1949, and it was given its present name when the Montana State University System reorganized in 1994.[92] The university offers Associate/Bachelor/Master degrees and certificates in various fields such as business, education, and medicine.[93] Currently around 5,000 students attend MSU Billings.[94]

City College at MSU Billings was established in 1969 as the Billings Vocational-Technical Education Center. Its governance was passed to the Montana University System Board of Regents in 1987, when it became known as the College of Technology. It was officially merged with MSU Billings (then known as Eastern Montana College) in 1994.[95] The name was changed to the present name in 2012.[96] It is known as the "comprehensive two-year college arm" of MSU Billings,[97] and currently offers degrees and programs in a variety of fields including automotive, business, computer technology, and nursing.[98]

Through the marriage of three institutions of higher learning Rocky Mountain College is Montana’s oldest college. Rocky Mountain College (or RMC) was founded in 1878.[99] The campus that would later become RMC was originally known as the Billings Polytechnic Institute, and in 1947, the BPI joined with the Montana Collegiate Institute in Deer Lodge (Montana's first institution of higher learning) and Intermountain Union College in Helena to form one entity, with students changing the name in 1947 to Rocky Mountain College.[100] During the 2013 fall semester, there were 1,068 students attending Rocky Mountain College.[101] There are currently 50 majors offered in 24 different fields including art, education, music, psychology, and theater.[102] RMC is currently affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).[103]

Yellowstone Baptist College is a small private Christian college located in western Billings. It offers one degree, that being a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies/Leadership.[104] The YBC is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and has close ties with Oklahoma Baptist University in St. Shawnee, Oklahoma.[105] The YBC also has plans to open up a nondenominational branch called the Yellowstone Bible Institute in early 2013.[105]

Culture[edit]

Arts[edit]

Deborah Butterfield Sculpture – Captain

Recreation/events[edit]

The Palisades on the north end of the ski area at Red Lodge Mountain Resort

Activities in and around Billings include hiking, rock climbing, skiing, mountain climbing, fishing, disc golf, the Downtown Skateboard Park, boating, motorcycle trails, golf, mountain biking, rappelling, extensive walking and bike trails, art walks, concerts, food fairs and rodeos. Some annual events include:

  • Wine & Food Festival at MSU Billings: May
  • Strawberry Festival under Skypoint: June
  • SummerFair at North Park: July
  • July 4 Parade in Laurel, Montana: July
  • Gay Pride Weekend (some years)[107]
  • Alive After 5 concerts: Thursdays June – September
  • Battle of the Little Big Horn Re-enactment near Crow Agency, Montana: June
  • Farmers Market under Skypoint: Every Saturday July to October
  • Big Sky State Games – July
  • Great American Championship Motorcycle Hill Climb - July
  • Skyfest (Hot air balloons): July/August
  • MontanaFair (August) at the MetraPark fairgrounds[108]
  • Magic City Blues Festival: August in Downtown Billings
  • Crow Fair & Rodeo in Crow Agency, Montana: August
  • Burn the Point (classic car show): September in Downtown Billings
  • Harvest Fest: October
  • Christmas Parade in Downtown Billings: November 24
  • Festival of Trees: December
  • The Christmas Stroll in Downtown Billings: December
  • Billings Artwalk
  • First Friday (Show openings at some of the downtown galleries on the first Friday of each month).

Breweries[edit]

With ten microbreweries in the metropolitan area Billings has more breweries than any community in Montana. The downtown breweries are The Montana Brewing Co, Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co, Himmelberger Brewing Co, Angry Hank's, Angry Hank's Tap Room, Carters Brewery, and Überbrew. Bones Brewing is located in midtown Billings. Two nearby breweries are Fat Jack's Tap Room in Laurel and in Red Lodge, Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co.[109] Downtown Billings also has a distillery that makes a variety of handcrafted spirits. Trailhead Spirits is located in the former train depot complex.[110] A new brewery, Canyon Creek Brewery, will be opening at the end of 2013 on Billings westend.[111]

Media[edit]

Billings is the largest media Market in Montana and Wyoming. Billings is serviced by a variety of print media. Newspaper service includes The Billings Gazette which is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper printed in Billings, Montana and owned by Lee Enterprises. It is the largest daily newspaper in Montana, with a Sunday circulation of 52,000 and a weekday circulation of 47,000. The paper publishes in three editions: the state edition, which circulates in most of Eastern Montana and all of South Central Montana; the Wyoming edition, which circulates in Northern Wyoming; and the city edition, which circulates in Yellowstone County. Other publications include the Billings Outpost,[112] a weekly publication, and the alternative publication The Grindstone,[113] which is published monthly. As well as other more specialized weekly and monthly publications, Billings also has several community magazines amongst them are Magic City Magazine[114] and Yellowstone Valley Woman.[115]

The Billings area is served by four major non-news television stations, two major news television stations, one community television station, four PBS channels[116] and several Low Power Television (LPTV) channels. The Billings area is also served by twenty-two commercial radio stations and Yellowstone Public Radio (NPR).[117]

Points of interest[edit]

Siberian tiger at ZooMontana

Sports[edit]

Venues[edit]

MetraPark
Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark

MetraPark hosts a wide variety of events. The facilities located in this venue include:

  • Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark: Originally called the METRA, for "Montana Trade and Recreation Arena." It is a 12,000-seat multi-purpose building completed in 1975. In 2007, the naming rights were sold to Billings-based Rimrock Auto Group and the arena now goes by the name Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark,[119] it is still owned by the City of Billings and Yellowstone County. It is the largest indoor venue in Montana and is used for concerts, rodeos, ice shows, motor sports events, and more.[120] On June 20, 2010, the building was heavily damaged by the Fathers Day Tornado.[42] According to Metra officials, "the tornado also lifted most of the roof off the arena and collapsed walls." This required extensive repair work and in the process parts of the building were redesigned to improve energy efficiency, parking lot access, acoustics and seating, as well as to add more restrooms and concession areas. On April 10, 2011, the building reopened with an Elton John concert.[121][122]
  • The Grandstand: a canopied outdoor venue that seats 6,500 for horse racing, rodeos, and other events including outdoor concerts.
  • The Expo Center: a 77,400-square-foot (7,190 m2) multi-purpose arena.[123]
  • The Montana Pavilion: a 28,800-square-foot (2,680 m2) multi-purpose arena.[124]
Alberta Bair Theater
Alberta Bair Theater

The Alberta Bair Theater is a 1400-seat performing arts venue it is noted for a 20-ton capacity hydraulic lift that raises and lowers the stage apron for performances.[125] It was originally called the Fox Theater, and opened in 1931. It was named in honor of Alberta Bair in 1987 due to her substantial donations that allowed the building to be renovated. She was moved to do so because the land now containing the theater was homesteaded by her father, Charles M. Bair, and she had been born in a nearby house that still is standing, not far from the theater.[126]

Shrine Auditorium

The Auditorium is a concert venue built in 1950. These days, the Shrine host national shows that might not be able to play Billings if it were not for this smaller cost effective venue. The Shrine seats 2340 for concerts with off street parking for 550 cars.

Dehler Park

Dehler Park is the new multi-use stadium that replaced Cobb Field in the summer of 2008. Cobb Field was a baseball stadium that was the home of the Billings Mustangs, the Pioneer League Rookie Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, since 1948. Cobb Field was named after Bob Cobb, who was responsible for bringing professional baseball with the Mustangs to Billings. Cobb Field also hosted home games for local American Legion baseball teams. In 2006, Billings voters approved $12 million to be spent on constructing a new multi-use sports facility. Cobb Field was demolished in 2007 and construction of Dehler Park began at the end of the 2007 baseball season. The new park debuted on June 29, 2008, when the Billings Scarlets faced the Bozeman Bucks in American Legion regular season play. The new Dehler Park has a crowd capacity of 3,500 to over 6,000.

Wendy's Field

Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium is a local area stadium used for high school games. It is located adjacent to Billings Senior High.

Centennial Ice Arena

Centennial Ice Arena is home to the Billings Amateur Hockey League, Figure Skating Clubs, Adult Hockey & the Junior A Billings Bulls.

Babcock Theater
the historic Babcock Theater

Babcock Theater is a 750-seat performing arts theater in Billings, Montana. It was built in 1907 and at the time was considered the largest theater between Minneapolis and Seattle. Today, after extensive renovations, it hosts a variety of national acts.

Alterowitz Arena MSU-Billings

The arena is a 4,000-seat venue primarily hosting Yellowjacket sports, local events and occasionally national touring events. This facility contains gyms and racket ball courts as well as an Olympic size pool with bleachers for aquatic events.

Fortin Center

Fortin Center is a 3,000-seat arena on the campus of Rocky Mountain College it is primarily used for the Rocky Mountain sports events.

Notable people[edit]

More widely famous people who have lived in Billings include:

Historical[edit]

Charles Lindbergh

Sports[edit]

Arts and entertainment[edit]

Arlo Guthrie 2007

Political[edit]

Miscellaneous[edit]

  • Billings was named The Magic City because of the city's seemingly overnight appearance and early growth.
  • Montana's Trailhead is Billings' branding and Star of the Big Sky Country is Billings' motto.
  • Billings is often referred to on social networking sites as B-Town.
  • Billings was the first stop on the 11th leg of The Amazing Race 8
  • Although the city was named after him, Frederick Billings, the railroad baron, never actually stayed there overnight.

See also[edit]

  • Not In Our Town – community based effort to stop hate crimes in Billings in the mid-1990s

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Further reading[edit]

  • Van West, Carroll. Images of Billings: A Photographic History (Billings: Western Heritage Press, 1990)
  • Wright, Kathryn. Billings: The Magic City and How It Grew (Billings: K. H. Wright, 1978)
  • An Illustrated History of the Yellowstone Valley, State of Montana (Spokane, Wash.: Western Historical Publishing Company, 1907)

External links[edit]

Billings travel guide from Wikivoyage