All About Billings, Montana Geographic Area
Billings is the largest city in the US state of Montana, and is the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Area, the largest metropolitan area in over 500 miles (800 km). With a trade area of over half a million people it is the largest metropolitan area between Denver and Calgary and between Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Spokane, Washington.
Billings is located in the south-central portion of the state and is the county seat of Yellowstone County, 2011 population of 150,069. The 2011 Census estimates put the Billings population at 105,636, 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. Billings has avoided the economic downturn that affected most of the nation 2008–2012 as well as avoiding the housing bust. With the Bakken oil play in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, the largest oil discovery in U.S. history, as well as the Heath shale oil play just north of Billings, the city's already rapid growth rate is escalating.
Billings was nicknamed the Magic City because of its rapid growth from its founding as a railroad town in 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, 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.
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.
Much of Billings is located in the Yellowstone Valley, carved out by the Yellowstone River. Over 10 million years ago, this valley was underwater with the tops of the Rimrocks, 500-to-800-foot (150 to 240 m) cliffs to the north and east of downtown, being a prehistoric beach. Some pictographs in the Pictograph Cave 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Billings are 3500 years old. The Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost cave complex were home to generations of prehistoric hunters. Approximately 30,000 artifacts, ranging from stone tools, weapons, paintings and the instruments used, have been identified from the site. They were carved from the Eagle sandstone cliff by the forces of water and wind. The Crow Indians frequented this area from about the year 1700. In 1806, William Clark traveled through the region on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He inscribed his name on Pompey's Pillar, a rock formation 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Billings, on July 25, 1806 William Clark wrote that he climbed the sandstone pillar and "had a most extensive view in every direction on the Northerly Side of the river". Clark named the place "Pompys Tower" in honor of a young Shoshone boy he had nicknamed "Pompy." The boy's mother was Sacajawea, who had helped guide the Lewis and Clark expedition and had acted as an interpreter. The name of the formation was changed by 1814 to the current title. Clark's inscription is the only remaining physical evidence found along the route that was followed by the expedition.
Billings was established in 1882 in Montana Territory near the already existing town of Coulson. The city of Billings was a rail hub founded by the Northern Pacific Railroad on a site originally known as Clark's Fork Bottom. The location was steered by a plan to develop freight hauling up Alkali Creek to Ft Benton and beyond into the productive Judith and Musselshell Basins. This inauspicious location was three miles (5 km) from fresh water on the alkali flats above the Yellowstone River, and was far from an ideal location to start a town.
The nearby town of Coulson, five years old and perched on the river's edge just to the northeast, appeared a far more likely site. Coulson was a rough and tumble town where arguments were often followed by gunplay. Coulson's first sheriff was none other than Liver-Eating Johnston. Perhaps the most famous person to be buried in Coulsons Boothill cemetery is Muggins Taylor, 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. Settlers moving east from the Gallatin Valley had farmed the flats around Coulson since 1877, and rejoiced at the news that the railroad was coming their way. In the end, though, Billings edged out Coulson, to the great disappointment of those living in the settlement. 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.
Billings railroad ancestry is seen in its townsite configuration. Unlike mining towns of the region whose contours traced the haphazard routes of streambeds and ore bodies, railroad towns were orderly geometric affairs. Laid out on rectilinear grids, the rail lines formed the spine of the townsite, with streets for businesses and homes projecting away at right angles. Taking advantage of the unique way that Billings straddled two sections, Clark platted the town to include two main commercial streets, paralleling and fronting onto the rail line. These twin streets, named Montana and Minnesota for the mother company that gave them life, formed the commercial center of the new town.
On April 1, 1882, Heman Clark arrived at Billings. Detailing the creation of the Billings townsite, what he described was basically an instant city planned to hold 20,000 inhabitants. Eight or nine sawmills, a 16-mile (26 km) irrigation system, rail spurs to nearby mines and money for the first bank in town came with the package. The railroad's promise to pump massive capital into the town "lit the fuse of a crazed land boom", and when M&MLI agent G. B. Hulme joined Clark the following week, the land rush was on.
Meanwhile, work on the approaching NP line continued at breakneck pace. Henry Villard, then president of the NP, was pushing hard for the transcontinental connection. While rail crews built east from Portland, others continued west up the Yellowstone valley. In August 1882, the line was completed to Billings, and on September 8, 1883, spike-driving celebrations at Gold Creek, Montana forged the final link in the NP's chain across the continent.
By May 1882, there were three buildings on the spot destined to become Billings. They were headquarters to lodge railroad survey crews, H. Clark's townsite office and mercantile, and a lone residence. Immediately, the building of town began. Many of the first structures were tents that sheltered hustling new businesses and town residents. Alongside them, cabins of rough-hewn log sprouted in about equal numbers and rapidly replaced the tents. By mid-June the first year, 79 tent shelters were in use, 81 houses were complete and another 75 homes were underway. Buildings to house new arrivals were hastily constructed south of the tracks, while commercial buildings and hotels were planted close to the hub of railroad activities. To keep order in the midst of the flurry, it was decreed that all dwellings be kept off the middle of streets.
The building boom continued, and by the end of 1883, the newspaper reported some 400 buildings, occupied by over 1,500 citizens. Maps of the day reveal that downtown encompassed about a nine-block area, split about evenly north and south of the railroad tracks. However, on the south the buildings were all of wood frame construction, while to the north, brick buildings were already beginning to edge out first generation frame buildings. Beyond downtown, the area south of the tracks became the first large residential neighborhood.
On November 19, 1888, a visiting reporter described Billings' progress through her first half decade.
In January 1882, Billings was a bright prairie. Today it is a sprightly, live, energetic and aggressive town of 1,500 inhabitants. It has certain metropolitan characteristics such as a splendid system of water works, electric lights, graded streets, efficient fire department, excellent schools and churches, good society, an intelligent class of people, wide awake and quick to respond to any demands upon their purses in the interest of the community.
The railroad and the new townsite drew settlers from far and wide. Many of the new arrivals came from other countries (the 1900 census recorded a quarter of the population foreign-born), creating a cosmopolitan mix of people and cultures in early Billings. The Northern Pacific employed many Chinese on their rail crews, and many took up resident status in the new city of Billings. A police officer of the day remembered there were some 90 people, mainly "laundry and restaurant employees, born in China and with families still in China. The Chinese lived close together, primarily at the east end of the townsite near Minnesota Ave. Sam Lee, one of the most prominent Chinese businessmen, owned much of block 189 including the L & L Building which still stands at 2624 Minnesota Ave.
In 1909, the Great Northern Railway built through Montana to Billings and beyond. That same year, Congress passed the Enlarged Homestead Act, allowing people to lay claim to 320 acres (1.3 km2) farms (double the previous size). What had been a steady flow of settlement suddenly became a raging torrent. In the heartland of dry farming, Billings was both a farm and rail hub. Outside of town, some 100,000 acres (400 km2) were put into cultivation, while greater Yellowstone County reported 2,500,000 acres (10,000 km2) dry were tilled for homestead farms.
Banks abounded in Billings, each a monument to local prosperity. By 1905, there were six banks in town, with a combined capital of over half a million dollars. Downtown was transformed during this "modern" era, and buildings of the late 19th century gave way to new, larger buildings that reflected the prosperity of Billings in the early 20th century. The presence of the Burlington and Milwaukee Railroad along the 5th Avenue North right-of-way drew downtown development that direction, and northern portions of downtown became increasingly urban. On March 24, 1909, a new downtown "Union Depot" serving the NP, Great Northern and Burlington lines opened to the public. Hotels large and small sprouted at the heart of downtown to serve travelers to Billings. Most prominent were the Northern and the Grand Hotels. Both buildings remain today, and are commanding on the Billings skyline. Smaller hotels also grew up in the shadow of the depot. Along Montana in the depot district, several small hotels were erected during the second decade of the 20th century. The Eagle, McCormick, Rex, Lincoln and Carlin are among those buildings that still remain.
By the 1910 census, Billings' population had risen to 10,031 ranking it the sixth fastest growing community in the nation. In 1911, a new Federal Building at First Ave. North and North 26th St. was begun. Completed in January 1914, it housed the post office, courthouse, and a booming U.S. Land Office. In 1912, the Montana Power Company constructed the Electric Building, aglow at night with recessed panel lighting. In May 1918, the Hart-Albin Building was completed and opened for business at Broadway and Second Ave. North.
Homes and older commercial buildings in the way of the boom were quick to go. At the same time, desirable neighborhoods rose up on the edge of the expanding downtown. A stone mansion and carriage house ("The Castle") built by Austin North in the 600 block of North 29th St. helped to set the pace in this fashionable northern part of town. On the western side of town, P.B. Moss built a red stone house on Division, and I.D. O'Donnell built a large new home at First St. West and Clark St. in 1904.
Toward the end of the homestead boom, oil production began on the outskirts of town. The Elk Basin oil field on the Montana-Wyoming border was located in mid-1915, and by the following year, the first well near Billings was drilled. Soon the Montana-Wyoming Oil Journal was in print to report on the latest developments from the oil fields. Just 6 years later, natural gas was also discovered in the basin, and plans for a pipeline to the city were discussed. In the 1940s and 1950s, this industry helped pull Billings into a new era and became a lynchpin of the local economy.
After World War II, Billings boomed into the major financial, medical and cultural center of the region. Billings always experienced rapid growth from its founding, in its first 50 years growth was at times in the 300 and 400 percentile. Billings's growth has remained robust throughout the years and at times almost unmanageable as in the 1950s when it had a growth rate of 66.0%. 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 were operational 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. At the time, it was the tallest building from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington and from Denver, Colorado to Calgary, Alberta (Canada). Upon its completion it was also declared "the tallest load-bearing brick masonry building in the world" by the Brick Institute of America. During the 1970s and 1980s, Billings also saw the completion of other important buildings in its downtown core; 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, now the tallest building in a five state area.
With the completion of large sections of the interstate system in Montana in the 1970s, Billings became an even bigger shopping destination for an ever increasingly 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 a third mall redeveloped and enlarged, Rimrock Mall on what was then the city's west end, Cross Roads Mall, no longer in existence, 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. The Yellowstone fires of 1988 blanketed Billings in smoke for weeks.
In the 1990s, Billings saw further enlargement of its service sector with the arrival of new shopping centers built around 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, even more hotel chains and service industry outlets are being built in Billings. Development of more 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.
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. With the completion of the Shiloh interchange exit off Interstate 90, The TransTech Center was developed 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. Even more shopping centers were developed in the 21st century. Some of the new centers are Shiloh Crossing which brought the first Kohl's 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. Other new centers include Billings Town Square with Montana's first Cabela's, 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. 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, 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 has 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. Billings is Montana's oasis of economic growth.
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), 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 33.8 square miles (87.6 km²), of which 33.7 square miles (87.3 km²) is land and 0.1 square mile (0.3 km²) (0.33%) is water.
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). 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. 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. 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. Big Snowy Mountains with peaks of 8,600 feet are home to Crystal Lake. The Bull Mountains are a low laying heavily forested range north of Billings Heights.
Billings has a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk), 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) while the winter can bring temperatures below zero (−17 °C), with 17 to 18 such nights per year. 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. First frosts generally come early (late September to early October) and last frosts (late April to early May) late. 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.
Although far from Tornado Alley, Billings is not immune from severe weather, but tornadoes are very rare in Billings. 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 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.
The 2010 Census recorded Billings' population at 104,934 with a population density of 3,080.9 per square mile (1,047.0/km2).
According to the 2010 Census, the city's population was 89.6% White (86.9% Non-Hispanic White alone), 0.8% Black or African American, 4.4% American Indian and Alaska Native, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 1.4% from Some Other Race and 2.9% from Two or More Races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 5.2% of the population.
There were 37,525 households out of which 29.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.2% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.3% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the city, the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.8 males.
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.
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.
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 countless 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.
Billings is the principal city of the Billings Metropolitan Statistical Area. The metropolitan area consists of two counties, Yellowstone and Carbon County. The population of the entire metropolitan area was estimated at 160,097 as of July 1, 2011.
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.
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 provides emergency services including fire suppression, emergency medical response, hazardous materials response, high angle rescue, confined space rescue, vehicle accident extrication, fire investigations, fire inspections, and fire education. The department has 97 employees, including four battalion chiefs, 27 captains, 27 engineers, and 39 firefighters.
American Medical Response (AMR) provides emergency medical services at the paramedic care level in Billings, and supports other agencies throughout Yellowstone County.
The tallest building in Billings and Montana is the First Interstate Center, which stands at 272 feet (83 m). Billings is also home to the tallest load-bearing brick structure in the world, the Crowne Plaza, which stands at 256 feet (78 m).
The geographic location of Billings was essential to its economic success. It is the center of a large area, bordered by Minneapolis, Minnesota to the east and Seattle, Washington to the west, Calgary, Alberta (Canada) to the north and Denver, Colorado to the south. 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. Billings trade area is geographically one of the largest trade areas in the United States. The Billings trade area serves over a half million people. 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. 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.
In 2009, Fortune Small Business magazine named Billings the best small city in which to start a business. 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, ag chemical mfg 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. 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.
Because of Billings' unique geography, Billings Logan International Airport is located just moments from the heart of downtown; it sits on top of (the Rims), a 500-foot (150 m) cliff overlooking the downtown core. Billings Logan International Airport is the largest and busiest airport within a four state region (Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota) both in passenger boardings and air cargo.
The Laurel Municipal Airport is a publicly owned public-use airport in Laurel, Montana, which is located eleven miles (17 km) southwest of the central business district (CBD) of Billings, Montana. The airport has three runways exclusively serving privately operated general aviation aircraft and helicopters.
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. There are also numerous Taxicab and Limousine services within the city. The Billings Bus Terminal is served by Greyhound has well as Rimrock Trailways which also provides regional and interstate bus service.
Billings has an extensive system of Bike trails. The Heritage Trail System includes a network of non-motorized multi-use trails and biking facilities within the greater Billings area. The City has a variety of multi-use trails and open spaces available for Walking, jogging, biking, or inline skating. The rapidly expanding system is being developed and maintained by the Billings Parks and Recreation Department.
Bicycling magazine ranked Billings among the nation's 50 most bike friendly communities ranking above cities like Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Miami, and Baltimore. In 2012, the Swords Park Trail was named the Montana State Trail of the Year.
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.
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 highway in the state of Montana. It connects to U.S. Highway 87 East which runs through Lockwood as Old Hardin Road.
The Billings Metro Area has two Level II trauma hospitals, St. Vincent Healthcare and the Billings Clinic. Employs over 5,000 directly.[clarification needed] Neurosurgery, highly rated cardiac surgery, neonatology and obstetrics, extensive cancer treatment, inpatient psychiatric care, orthopedics and rehab, dedicated air ambulances both fixed-wing planes and helicopters.[clarification needed] In July 2012 Billings Clinic was rated the best hospital in the nation for safety by Consumer Reports.
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.
An increasing number of assisted living facilities and senior independent living options, a static number of nursing homes, and sizable home health care services target the rapidly growing aging population, already 1 in 8 Montanans are over 65 making it the 4th "oldest" state in the U.S. after Florida, Arizona, and Wyoming.
Billings campuses train physician assistants, biochemists, paramedics, registered nurses, speech pathologists, licensed practical nurses, surgical technicians, x-ray technicians, medical records clerks, athletic trainers, and health care business students at the undergraduate and graduate level as of 2007.
The city of Billings operates 22 elementary schools in district 2. The elementary schools are Alkali Creek, Arrowhead, Beartooth, Bench, Big Sky, Bitterroot, Boulder, Broadwater, Burlington, Central Heights, Eagle Cliffs, Highland, McKinley, Meadowlark, Miles Avenue, Newman, Orchard, Poly Drive, Ponderosa, Rose Park, Sandstone, and Washington. There is also a district 3 in Billings, which only contains the elementary school Blue Creek and a district 8, which contains Elder Grove School, teaching grades K – 8. The four middle schools in Billings are Riverside Middle School, Lewis and Clark, Will James, and Castle Rock. There are three high schools as well, including Billings Senior High, West High, and Skyview. In addition, students from the three high schools have the option of attending at the Career Center, which offers opportunities in vocational and technical education.
There are several institutions of higher learning in Billings. These include state schools (Montana State University Billings and the City College at MSU Billings) and private schools (Rocky Mountain College and Yellowstone Baptist College).
Montana State University Billings, established in 1927, was originally named Eastern Montana Normal School when it was founded and then named Eastern Montana College in 1949; it was given its present name when the Montana State University System reorganized in 1994. The university offers Associate/Bachelor/Master degrees and certificates in various fields such as business, education, and medicine. Currently around 5,000 students attend MSU Billings.
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. The name was changed to the present name in 2012. It is known as the "comprehensive two-year college arm" of MSU Billings, and currently offers degrees and programs in a variety of fields including automotive, business, computer technology, and nursing.
Billings also offers two private schools. Rocky Mountain College is Montana's oldest and first institution of higher learning, founded in 1878. It is a private comprehensive college offering over 40 liberal arts and professionally oriented majors. Rocky Mountain College is often simply called "Rocky" or "RMC" for short. Rocky is proud of its standing record of being ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 10 in quality and a “best value” among comprehensive colleges in the West. Along with its quality Rocky also continues to maintain a 99% graduate placement rate. Yellowstone Baptist College also offers a limited curriculum.
Activities in and around Billings include hiking, rock climbing, mountain climbing, fishing, skiing, boating, disc golf, skateboarding, the Downtown Skateboard Park, motorcycle trials, golf, mountain biking, rappelling, extensive walking and bike trails, art walks, concerts, food fairs and rodeos. Some annual events include:
With eight breweries in Billings and Ten in the metropolitan area Billings has more breweries than any community in Montana. They are The Montana Brewing Co, Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co, Himmelberger Brewing Co, Angry Hank's, Angry Hank's Tap Room, Carters Brewery, Überbrew, Bones Brewing, in Laurel Fat Jack’s Tap Room and in Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co. A distillery that makes a variety of handcrafted spirits will also be opening in 2012 at in the former train depot complex.
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 52,434 and a weekday circulation of 47,105. 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, a weekly publication, and the alternative publication The Grindstone, 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 and Yellowstone Valley Woman.
The Billings area is served by four major non-news television stations, two major news television stations, one community television station, four PBS channels and several Low Power Television (LPTV) channels. The Billings area is also served by twenty-two commercial radio stations and Yellowstone Public Radio (NPR).
MetraPark hosts a wide variety of events. The facilities located in this venue include:
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. 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.
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 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 at Daylis Stadium is a local area stadium used for high school games. It is located adjacent to Billings Senior High.
Centennial Ice Arena is home to the Billings Amateur Hockey League, Figure Skating Clubs, Adult Hockey & the Junior A Billings Bulls.
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.
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 is a 3,000-seat arena on the campus of Rocky Mountain College it is primarily used for the Rocky Mountain sports events.
More widely famous people who have lived in Billings include: