"President Cruzado, you have shown the leadership in this project that we knew you were capable of showing," said Regents Chairman Clay Christian following the Regents' vote of approval.
The vote gives a green light for an expanded renovation to the south end of Bobcat Stadium that will include the bowling in of the south end zone for an additional 5,200 seats, a multi-media scoreboard, field lighting, concessions area and a locker room. MSU officials have said the university plans to have the renovation complete by the beginning of the 2011 football season.
The Regents had high praise for the project that calls for the raising of $6 million in private donations and $4 million in financing that will be paid for by revenue from MSU Athletics, including ticket sales.
"This project has been phenomenal," said Regent Lynn Hamilton. "My hope is that this translates into real support for students in Bozeman. I'm comfortable that this is a responsible business plan."
Regent Janine Pease, noting that she came from a family of student-athletes, took the opportunity to recognize and appreciate MSU's student-athletes.
"They work very hard and are incredibly talented," she said. "They are a testament to the value athletics adds to the university, and this is an appropriate thing to do in support of their success."
President Cruzado said that student success is everybody's business and that this project will help provide students with a complete university experience, aiding both student recruitment and retention.
Cruzado also talked about the sense of community created by athletics and the exposure it creates for all parts of campus.
"First and foremost, Montana State University is about excellence in academics, but athletics are the front porch of the university," she said. "Athletics allows us to and engage in conversations with alumni and friends and tell the story of all the great things that are happening at MSU."
Cruzado noted that 75 percent of the donors to the EZ Campaign are contributors to both athletics and academics at MSU.
A large and supportive crowd was in attendance when the Regents voted on the proposal, including Bobcat legend Sonny Holland, who both played and coached for the Bobcats. The EZ Campaign was launched in October when an anonymous donor gave $1 million in honor of Holland.
Earlier this week the MSU Foundation announced that its EZ Campaign to raise funds for the stadium renovation had received nearly $5 million in pledges within six weeks of first announcing the project. With the $4 million match approved today by the Board of Regents, the campaign has netted more than $9 million of its $10 million goal.
"There's so much excitement surrounding this project," said Michael Stevenson, interim president and CEO of the MSU Foundation. "The Regents responded to the energy today. Not only in approving the project, but by indicating that they would be personally making commitments to the campaign."
As an example, Sheila Stearns, Montana Commissioner of Higher Education, announced her own donation, noting that she had been prompted to give after receiving a message asking her to text in a donation to the project. Because she lives in what she called "a Griz household," she also announced a matching gift to the University of Montana's Bitterroot College.
"The mobile giving component is a new twist for us," Stevenson said. "It gives everyone in the far reaches of Bobcat Nation - students, alumni and the community - the opportunity to participate in the project."
Fans with cell phones can text in a donation to the project by texting the word "Cats" to 20222. A one-time donation of $10 to the EZ Campaign will be added to the texter's phone bill or deducted from their prepaid balance. Fans may make three to five $10 donations per month, depending on their wireless carrier. Messaging and data rates may apply.
Cruzado thanked the Regents for their support as well as the faculty and staff, students, alumni, boosters and fans who have made the project a success.
"It's a very good day in this neighborhood," she said.
Further details about the EZ Campaign may be found at: www.montana.edu/ez.
Phillip Luebke (406) 994-2416, firstname.lastname@example.org