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New West Daily Roundup for May 16, 2016

Today in New West news: special Pompeii exhibit coming to Museum of the Rockies, Billings book co-op announces name, an update on Sports Authority, and feds want to open Idaho road in grizzly country.

According to the Billings Gazette, visitors to the Bozeman, Montana-based Museum of the Rockies this summer will be able to experience a rather unique exhibit. “Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis near Pompeii” will exhibit both treasures and travails typically unseen in regular Pompeii exhibits. Indeed, the Museum of the Rockies will be the only museum west of the Mississippi exhibiting these treasures. The exhibit will run from June 18 to December 31, 2016. From the Gazette:

“This scale of luxury is hard to imagine. This is how the ‘one percent’ lived,” said Regina Gee, an associate professor of ancient art at Montana State University and adjunct curator of art history at the museum. Gee has been working with two other researchers on organizing the artifacts originally found in the Italian villas and is an expert on the frescoes found there.

A few years ago, she and her colleagues obtained permission from Italian authorities to organize an exhibit of artifacts from the site to travel to the United States — artifacts that had never left Italy.

Gee said the nearly 150 pieces are currently on display at the University of Michigan. They’ll be headed to Smith College in Northampton, Mass., after their six-month stay at the Museum of the Rockies.

The Museum of the Rockies exhibition will thus be the only opportunity for people west of the Mississippi River to see the artifacts.

Those artifacts include marble statues, jewelry, elaborate boxes in which to carry valuables — even an ancient pair of dice.

“There’s nothing that can compare with them,” Gee said. “I still can’t believe we got permission.”

Gee said the exhibit also shows “the human side of the tragedy.”


The villa is believed to have belonged to the second wife of Emperor Nero, Poppaea. A prominent amenity contained in the villa, constructed on a cliff 40 feet above the sunny Bay of Naples, was a huge swimming pool surrounded by marble sculptures.

“For whatever reason,” the Museum of the Rockies states on its website, “the villa itself had been abandoned by the time of Vesuvius’ catastrophic eruption in 79 AD, but a commercial wine distribution center next door was thriving. Falling ash and pyroclastic (fast-moving hot gas and rock) flows buried empty dining rooms that had seated more than 100 people, an 80-meter swimming pool, private rooms adorned with spectacular frescoes and marble columns resting on mosaic floors ready for re-sale.”

“There have been a lot of great shows about Pompeii, but (the artifacts) are usually cherry-picked items from different villas,” Gee said. “They call it ‘Daily Life in Pompeii’ or something like that. This is something much more specific, and I’m so looking forward to it.”

Keeping with Montana, we previously reported author and owner of Red Lodge Books & Tea Gary Robson had accepted a position at a hitherto unnamed book co-op in nearby Billings. Now, according to the Billings Gazette, the co-op has been christened, and, most appropriately, the name reflects one of the state’s most beloved and respected literary icons. Taking a cue from Ivan Doig (whose rhapsodic book This House of Sky was nominated for a National Book Award), the co-op will be named “This House of Books,” after Robson received the blessing of Doig’s widow Carol. From the Gazette:

“Our members/owners tend to be lovers of the Big Sky country, and many of us are writers,” Robson said.

The former Wendy’s restaurant on North 29th Street will be renovated into a 5,000 square-foot bookstore and tea room. It will open in late summer.

Billings architect Randy Hafer showed initial drawings of his plans for the space. The building was originally the YMCA, and the mezzanine was a running track.

Hafer said he wants to remove the awnings from the outside that cover up the mezzanine windows and to open up the space on the interior.

“We’re also hoping to provide outside seating for the tea bar,” Hafer said.

This House of Books will become a new cultural hub for downtown, Robson said. He wants to offer game nights, acoustic music, poetry readings, book signings and improv comedy.

Over in Colorado, we’ve been following the ups and downs of Sports Authority, the much beleaguered sports equipment company who previously declared bankruptcy in March and has admitted they’re unable to reorganize under Chapter 11—all the while saying they hoped to avoid liquidation by selling off chunks of their business to competitors. However, according to the Denver Business Journal, that hasn’t been going so well:

As expected, Sports Authority did get bids on its stores from rival sporting goods chains as it heads into a bankruptcy auction next week — but for far fewer stores than anticipated.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the struggling Englewood-based retail company did get considerable interest from liquidators looking to snap up assets.


t set Wednesday, May 11, as the deadline for bids ahead of the asset auction, which opens Monday, May 16, in Wilmington, Delaware.

It was thought by some analysts that one or more rival chains — like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Modell’s — might be interested in acquiring large numbers of the 450 Sports Authority stores. One analyst — Canaccord Genuity, as cited by MarketWatch — projected that Dick’s (NYSE: DKS) could snap up anywhere from 80 to 180 Sports Authority stores.

But the WSJ says that Dick’s wound up bidding for fewer than 20 stores, and Modell’s for “a small handful.”

On the other hand, two groups of several liquidators each put in larger bids on company assets, the Journal reports, citing unnamed “people familiar with the situation.”

How much was bid by each party was not reported.

Sports Authority currently is evaluating all bids, it told the WSJ.

In addition, the DBJ reports, the fate of the company’s naming rights to Sports Authority Field is still up in the air, although the stadium’s managers have filed for veto power if Sports Authority tries to transfer the naming contract.

Finally, according to the Idaho Business Review, officials in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency say they want to reopen an Idaho road that snakes through grizzly bear habitat near the Canadian border. Bog Creek Road, a six-mile section wending through the Idaho Panhandle National Forests and the Selkirk Mountains, has been closed since the 1980s, to help protect the grizzly bears. Feds say they would prohibit public access on Bog Creek Road, and only official U.S. Customs officers would be permitted to use it. According to the Review, officials patrolling the U.S.-Canadian border say they have to make a 180-mile detour through Washington state to patrol that part of the border, an ordeal they hope to rectify by opening Bog Creek Road:

“The whole point is to make sure the Department of Homeland Security has what it needs and the grizzly bears have what they need,” said Shanda Dekome, acting deputy forest supervisor.

Questions submitted by email on May 12 to Border Protection weren’t answered.

The 2,200-square-mile Selkirk Mountain Ecosystem includes portions of Idaho, Washington state and British Columbia.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the grizzly bear population at about 80 bears listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Dekome said guidelines require 55 percent of the habitat area to have no motorized travel, and it is now about 5 percent short of that mark, with a 2019 deadline to comply.

Along with grizzly bears, other federally protected species in the area include caribou, Canada lynx and bull trout.

Boundary County Commissioner LeAlan Pinkerton, a former border protection agent, testified before a U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee last month about the road, contending it should be opened.

The Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “have placed the recovery of grizzly bear, caribou, lynx and other wildlife species as a priority above our nation’s security,” he told lawmakers.

He told The Associated Press May 13 that he’s traveled Bog Creek Road many times, having grown up in the area and later worked as a supervisory border protection agent.

“The agents that work that area absolutely have arrested people coming through and using that avenue,” he said. “It still goes on today.”

Mike Garrity, executive director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said his group planned to participate in a public review process on the proposal.

“Most grizzly bears that are killed are killed near roads, so it’s something that would definitely be harmful to grizzly bears,” he said.

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