Majestic Valley Arena to Close Doors

By Beacon Staff

Shortly after Christmas, the Majestic Valley Arena will go dark. Owners Bob and Jan Parker hope the closure is only temporary, but the venue’s fate, like so much else right now, ultimately comes down to economics.

The plan is to close from January through March, the Parkers said, and then see if economic conditions allow for a re-opening thereafter. The arena is listed for sale, though no price has been given and Bob Parker said the listing is designed to test the market. The Parkers will listen to offers. It’s the first time the arena has shut down for an extended period of time since it opened in March of 2002, the Parkers said.

“This decision didn’t come easy,” Jan Parker said.

High fuel prices, along with a struggling economy, contributed to a substantial decrease in participants for the summer’s equine shows and, consequently, a decrease in willing promoters. Participants in equine shows, who haul horse trailers from around the nation, were hit hard by the diesel prices. Spectator events such as concerts, which constitute a smaller revenue base for the arena than the large equine performances, also suffer from smaller crowds.

“Less money in the pockets means less frills,” Jan said. “It’s a trickle down effect.”

Summer is the busy season and the Parkers rely on that revenue to help them through the slower months, like January, February and March. The past summer’s diminished revenue left the Parkers with no choice but to close and the cold winter months, when heating bills for the spacious venue are high, are the obvious choices to go first.

Before Majestic Valley opened in 2002, Bob Parker, a horse enthusiast who has lived in the valley for 30 years, said there wasn’t a high-quality venue for equine shows, or large events of any kind, in the area. Since its inception, the arena has built a strong reputation as a top-notch venue for horse-related shows, consistently drawing nationally renowned participants.

The arena is also respected for hosting trade shows, rodeos, arts and crafts fairs, monster truck rallies and more. Last weekend’s presentation by Clinton Anderson, a famed horse trainer, was expected to draw about 3,000 people each day.

“Our focus has been to provide the community with a wide range of opportunities,” Jan Parker said.

Bob added: “We’ve strived to make sure the events are good, quality events.”

Majestic Valley sits on 140 acres off of U.S. Highway 93 between Kalispell and Whitefish. Its centerpieces are the 55,750-square-foot indoor arena that seats 7,000 people and a state-of-the-art stall barn, which contains 164 indoor and 190 outdoor stalls. Stall rentals are a cornerstone of the Majestic’s revenue. Other facilities include a 45,000-square-foot outdoor arena, a 250-seat pavilion and plenty of holding pens.

For Bob Parker, the arena is a way to promote his passion for Big Sky country.

“I love the Western lifestyle and I love Montana,” Bob said.

Kellie Danielson, Kalispell’s community and economic development director, said Majestic Valley is a vital asset for the Flathead. The arena contributes to the community in three important ways, she said. The first is employment. A large operation such as Majestic Valley provides plenty of job opportunities. Another is entertainment. It is one of the region’s primary venues for large concerts and other performances. The third, Danielson said, is the arena’s impact on the economy: Participants and spectators fill hotels, shop at area stores and pump money into a variety of other facets of the local market.

“We’re very hopeful that they find a way to remain open because I think the closing of the venue would be a great loss for the community,” Danielson said. “We hate to see that facility go dark.”

On Dec. 27 and 28, the Northwest Montana Team Penning Association will put on the last event before the arena closes. Then the lights go out, but the Parkers hope not for long.

“Don’t count us out yet,” Jan said.