The $10 million Bobcat Stadium End Zone Project will feature a new grandstand wrapping around the south end zone and adding 5,200 seats, taking the stadium's capacity above 17,000.
While the temperature was mild, spirit was high, fueled by the excitement and anticipation the new end zone project has brought to the campus and the community.
In her remarks, MSU President Waded Cruzado outlined four objectives for the project, including increased student access, increased affordable access for the community, enhancement of the game day experience, and additional scholarship and financial support for MSU Athletics.
"This was an ambitious project," Cruzado said before thanking the Quarterback Club, the Montana Board of Regents, MSU students, the MSU Foundation, and more than 700 donors who came together to support the project, "and we dared to call it 'EZ.'"
Steve Barrett, of Bozeman, who is a member of the Board of Regents, called the uprising of community and student support for the project "heartwarming" and said that approval of the project was an easy decision for the Regents to make, when they saw all the parts of it come together.
Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns echoed Barrett's and Cruzado's remarks and told the crowd, "You've got optimism, enthusiasm, pragmatism and moxie. Today is a demonstration of that."
MSU Head Football Coach Rob Ash, who received a standing ovation as he stepped to the podium, took the opportunity to thank his players and coaches, and talked about the football program's success in the classroom, in the community and on the field.
He praised Cruzado's leadership as "charismatic and forceful," and said that because she had said early in the campaign that failure was not an option, "success was the result."
After the speakers, MSU's mascot, Champ, helped Cruzado into a nearby excavator. To the delight of the crowd, she fired it up, swung the arm back and forth, then took a couple of good-sized chunks out of the ground with the bucket
"I was really excited to run that machine, but not nearly as excited as I am for what this project means for our students, our alumni, and our community," Cruzado said.
Work at the site had already begun prior to Friday's events. A concrete slab is all that was left of the building that once stood behind the end zone bleachers. A spokesperson for general contractor Martel Construction said that the bleachers would be removed in the next week or two.
It is estimated that the project will provide over 200 jobs through the course of the construction, which is expected to be completed by the first home football game of the 2011 on September 10.
A project photo gallery can be found at the Bobcat Athletics Web page at: http://msubobcats.com/sports/2011/1/4/GEN_0104115250.aspx?id=82. A stadium Web cam is also expected to be operational in about a week.
In conjunction with the groundbreaking, A&E Architects and university officials released two new architectural renderings (rendering 1,rendering 2) of the stadium addition. The drawings show a large scale concrete grandstand structure, complete with Bobcat-blue railings. A grade-level concourse and lower-level seating wrap tightly around the end zone, while the upper sections spread out like a fan and extend higher than the existing stands. A camera platform and scoreboard top the structure. Plans also call for new concession area and locker rooms.
The scoreboard pictured in the rendering is actually one of two scoreboards that will grace Bobcat Stadium when the project is finished. The main scoreboard, which has not yet been selected, will be located at the north end of the stadium and will feature a large video board and new sound system.
According to MSU Foundation President & CEO Michael Stevenson, the success of the EZ Campaign and market conditions have given the project oversight committee the flexibility to switch to higher-quality construction materials where appropriate. Initially, the plans called for aluminum grandstands. Now, longer-lasting and more durable pre-cast concrete risers will be used, creating a more permanent feel and lowering maintenance costs in the long run.
MSU Facilities Planning Director Walt Banziger said that Missoula Concrete, owned by MSU grad Doug Bauer, won the bid for the concrete risers. Other parts of the project are either out for bid now or will be going out soon.
Bobcat fans that want to see more stadium plans are invited to attend a press conference and public forum on national signing day for Bobcat Football at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday on Feb. 2 in the third floor Stadium Club of Bobcat Stadium.
Contact: Phillip Luebke (406) 994-2416 firstname.lastname@example.org