By Myers Reece, 5-01-12
||Caption: Bob Parker, co-owner of Majestic Valley Arena with his wife Jan Parker, stands on the south end of the Majestic Valley Arena north of Kalispell. The arena is holding a 10-year anniversary celebration on May 3. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
When Bob Parker opened the Majestic Valley Arena 10 years ago, he knew the Flathead Valley needed a good equine event facility. What he didn’t know was that the arena would become a major regional entertainment hub for events as wide ranging as mixed-martial arts tournaments to country music concerts to bull riding competitions.
In its 10 years, the Majestic Valley Arena has hosted 600 events that have drawn nearly 500,000 spectators. Big-name country stars like Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins and Martina McBride have performed at the arena, with crowds reaching 5,000 or bigger, an uncommon sight in the Flathead Valley. People travel from all corners of the country to participate in the equine events.
Sitting inside the arena recently, Parker described himself as a horse lover who didn’t expect his facility to become such a prominent multi-event center and economic force for the area. He credits the community and the arena’s supporters for helping the Majestic evolve into what it is today.
“We’d like to thank the valley for their continued support,” Parker, who owns the Majestic with his wife Jan, said. “We look forward to another 10 years here.”
Majestic Valley Arena sits upon 140 acres on U.S. Highway 93 between Kalispell and Whitefish. With well over 100,000 square feet spread out across indoor and outdoor arenas, the Majestic has the size to accommodate many different kinds of gatherings. Parker recalls a high school graduation attended by more than 8,000 people.
As someone whose “passion has always been horses,” Parker got serious about opening an equine event center when the idea was floated in the community over a decade ago. Parker, a former plumbing and mechanical contractor, found the right piece of agricultural land to hold such a facility and then launched the large construction project, leading to the Majestic Valley Arena’s grand opening in the spring of 2002.
Over the years, the Majestic has gained a reputation for its horse-related events, attracting the likes of Clinton Anderson, a well-known trainer who has given clinics at the arena.
Soaring fuel prices and general economic uncertainty hit the arena hard in 2008, especially in regards to horse shows, though other events suffered as well. Hauling horse trailers long distances when gas prices are high isn’t a viable option for many equine participants. The Parkers were forced to rethink their strategy.
Parker said he and his wife took a hard look at what types of events they were hosting and at what time of year, keeping in mind the high costs of heating the facility in the winter. The arena temporarily closed in the winter of 2008.
The Parkers also decided to get out of the business of producing shows, instead putting their energies toward maintaining and improving the facility itself, and welcoming a diverse variety of events.
The arena has been used for sporting events such as mixed-martial arts and a large wrestling tournament held last weekend, in addition to other events that complement the Majestic’s equine and rodeo lineup.
“We just focus now on providing the best facility we can,” Parker said. “We make sure it’s clean and it’s a family-friendly environment.”
Following the rough 2008 season, word spread that the Parkers were looking to sell. Though they are still listening to offers, Parker said he and his wife aren’t actively shopping the arena. Business has picked up. Last winter was their best on record.
Count Rob Brisendine among those who are happy to see the Majestic doing well. Brisendine is the group sales manager at the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said the Majestic has a significant impact on the local economy. When the arena hosts large events, the participants and spectators spend money at local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
Using data from the Majestic, the convention and visitors bureau and the University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, Brisendine calculated the Majestic’s direct economic impact to the Flathead Valley to be more than $50 million in its 10 years.
“The trickle-down effect is tremendous,” Brisendine said.
The event center also helps the convention and visitors bureau promote the area.
“The Majestic Valley Arena, being really a world-class indoor facility, is very critical to our effort,” Brisendine said. “It allows us to attract rodeo and other indoor events in the shoulder and colder seasons.”
That’s why Brisendine is hoping the community shows up at a May 3 customer-appreciation day to celebrate the arena’s 10-year anniversary. The event is held from 5 to 7 p.m. and will feature rodeo demos, presentations, children’s activities, live music, food and beverages.
“The message we have,” Brisendine said, “is to come out to their customer-appreciation day event to let them know how important they are to our community and the long-term viability of our community.”
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