Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center Announces Winning Building Site

PRESS RELEASE - April 30, 2012

Contact: Aaron Lyles, Director of Finance,

(406) 600-8231

Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center announces winning building site

Sixty-plus years after State Senator Leo Cremer of Sweet Grass County proposed the need for Montana to build a cowboy hall of fame; this vision took major steps towards becoming reality as the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) announces that it has completed its ten-month long building site selection process. Big Timber has been selected as the new home and building site of the MCHF & WHC.

Through a request for proposals process, an evaluation committee, made up of MCHF &WHC board members, selected finalist communities based on the infrastructure and capacity to sustainably operate a visitor attraction. In the final phase of the process, the committee evaluated the specific building site proposals offered by Big Sky, Big Timber, Livingston and Madison County. 

“As we concluded our process, the important factors of sustainability, working with Montana’s tourism infrastructure, and the overall cost for development of the project played an important role in Big Timber’s selection,” said DuWayne Wilson, MCHF & WHC president. “The Stetson building is highly visible and centrally located on I-90. All of the necessary infrastructure is fully developed at the site, while the building itself is simply an open shell that we can incorporate our exhibition plan into. In all, this unique package has been offered at an extraordinary cost savings over what it would otherwise cost to implement at any other site. Additionally, the contract terms gave us greater flexibility than some of the other property offers.”

“We had a tough decision with fantastic proposals from Big Sky, Livingston, and Madison County,” Wilson said. “Every finalist had some quality that ranked higher than their peers. In the end, it was our responsibility to make the best business decision we could and we could only choose one. We want to express our deep appreciation to the community leaders who put forward an exceptional effort and demonstrated themselves as true ambassadors for their communities. It made our decision that much harder.”

With the site selection process completed, the focus of the MCHF & WHC will be implementing a capital fundraising campaign to move forward with developing the campus in Big Timber. 

“We have a clear line of sight for success,” said Mike Gurnett, MCHF & WHC board member. “This is truly a project whose time has come. With this great central I-90 location, I can envision the parking lot filled with school buses from across the state as students explore Montana’s Western Heritage. The timing could not be better for people to step forward with financial support and artifact donations to keep us moving forward to achieving our goals to celebrate what makes Montana so great.” 

Background information:

Under a 2003 Montana legislative effort, Wolf Point was identified to be the future building site for the MCHF & WHC. With the mission of “honoring our cowboy way of life, American Indian cultures, and collective Montana Western heritage,” the organization has been greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm from all corners of the state. After successfully organizing a statewide network of Trustees and implementing the annual Hall of Fame inductions, the organization set its sights on the development of its future museum and visitor center attraction. As interested donors watched other state-wide museums and non-profits struggle under the crippling economic downturn, donor concerns quickly rose regarding the feasibility and sustainability of such a facility, given the planned location’s distance from major tourism and interstate corridors. To address these concerns, the membership, Board of Trustee’s and Board of Directors unanimously voted to pursue a legislative revision which would allow them to study the feasibility of any building location throughout the state and to invite all interested communities to express their interest. House Bill 528 was signed into law in April of 2011 and efforts began to organize a request for proposal process that would objectively evaluate offered building sites. 

The request for proposals was developed under the advisement of special taskforce of top industry experts from across the state and the nation. The resulting request for proposals was implemented in three phases. Phase one consisted of an open invitation to all Montana communities to express their interest in being considered. In phase two, all interested communities were asked to complete a comprehensive questionnaire to study, in detail, issues such as community infrastructure and those factors essential to operating the visitor destination attraction business. These submissions were evaluated under a standardized scoring system that resulted in a field of finalists to participate in the third and final phase. Finalists worked in the third phase to identify specific building sites within their community and to bring forward community resources.