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Skypoint set for major renovations after 20+ years of weathering in Billings



Billings, Montana – There is no need for an address when Billings people request to meet under Skypoint, which is exactly how the iconic monument was intended to be constructed more than 20 years ago. But the city’s Parks and Recreation staff says it’s time for significant upgrades after spending more than 20 years exposed to the weather.

“It’s a unique project, not a lot of people can say they’ve got to work on something like this,” says Cole McQuillan, superintendent of Billings Parks and Recreation.

Driving through downtown, it is impossible to overlook the building that symbolizes the center of the city. Skypoint is 73 feet tall and weighs 144 tons, but it is getting older.

“Skypoint is going to get a glow up. It is 22 years old,” says Katy Easton, CEO of the Downtown Billings Alliance.

The canvas shade sails of the structure are the main source of worry. One of the sails is 100 feet by 40 feet in size, and many of them are dripping with holes.

“Once they start getting the holes and tearing, you lose that coverage,” says McQuillan. “In the winter, snow and rain and ice will start building up and then melting through those openings, and then re-freeze. And now you’ve got big icicles hanging down, and those could fall, and those are a safety hazard.”

The sun also beams through, but repairs are needed and are expected to start on September 12. During this time, the crossroads will be closed to traffic for a few days. Before winter arrives, the three-phase project is expected to be finished.

“We have to use an aerial lift truck,” says McQuillan.

At a cost of $140,000, phase one included the production and installation of new canvas sails. Phase two involves a $40,000 fresh coat of paint in an undetermined color. Electrical renovations of $20,000 to $40,000 are included in phase three, along with programmable LED lighting. A tax increment financing grant authorized by the Billings City Council provides funding for the undertaking.

“If we’re celebrating or observing Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, we could light the sails pink if we wanted to,” says Easton.
Although everyone is working to make sure Skypoint stays a community hub, not everyone shared that vision when Skypoint was first put in place and dedicated in 2002.

“It didn’t get universal approval from the community,” says former Billings Mayor Chuck Tooley. “Some people thought it was a monstrosity. When the Eiffel Tower was built, most of Paris thought it was a monstrosity also.”

Tooley dedicated the building at the time and has witnessed Skypoint’s development into what it is now. “We wanted to make this the heart of our community,” says Tooley.

“When we talk about events that are happening, when we talk about downtown in general, we use Skypoint as this kind of directional beacon, this kind of wayfinding point,” says Easton.

People always make their way to Skypoint for events like the harvest festival and the holiday parade. This winter, you might even see red and green-lit sails when Santa makes an appearance during the procession.

On September 12–14, the intersection will be closed to all vehicular traffic from 7 am to 5 pm. There will still be open foot traffic.



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