Montana's indoor practice facility expected next fall; beer garden returns this year | UM Grizzlies |

2022-09-04 03:06:07 By : Ms. Cynthia Luo

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Pictured is an artist rendering of the new Grizzly Indoor Practice facility.

Pictured is an artist rendering of the new Grizzly Indoor Practice facility.

MISSOULA — All eyes will be on Montana’s football team this Saturday as the Grizzlies kick off the 2022 season ranked No. 3 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 poll.

Those eyes might be looking around the University of Montana campus for the indoor practice facility, the latest infrastructure project being undertaken by UM. There won’t be any sign of the groundwork at the River Bowl fields northwest of Washington-Grizzly Stadium, so don’t worry about getting your eyeglass prescription checked.

The athletic department is delaying the construction of the facility, Montana athletic director Kent Haslam said Monday. The aim now is to have it completed by October 2023 after previous estimates looked initially at November 2022 and then March 2023.

“I certainly hear a lot about supply-chain issues, and I think we’re all getting tired of hearing about supply-chain issues and distribution and logistics and all those things,” he said. “But we got to a point with electric transforms, the different products that were needed to build this facility that we would get it done and be up in March of 2023. So, you’re thinking why rush it, why spend more to get product in just to get it done in March just to take it right down in the spring.”

The indoor practice facility will be in the form of a bubble that can be put up in the winter months and during inclement weather. The covering can be taken down to create an open-air facility in nicer weather. A permanent structure must be attached for electrical equipment, restrooms and to pressurize the bubble.

The facility will give the football team an indoor area to practice, but it’ll be able to be used by other teams like soccer, softball and track. The facility will include four 150-yard synthetic sprint spring lanes, two long jump pits, two pole vault pits and a throwing area for hammer, javelin, discus and shot put.

The hope around this time last year was to have the facility finished by this October so the Griz could practice indoors during what they hope will be a deep playoff run in the winter. The national title game is now in January, not the week before December like during coach Hauck’s previous stint at UM, which could increase the chance of winter weather inhibiting practice.

The Griz made the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons and had weather cut practice short leading up to the quarterfinal game at James Madison last December. In 2019, spring camp was delayed by a week because of ice on the turf field in their stadium.

“We have delayed the starting of the bubble until after the first of the year and then it will be up by October of next year,” Haslam said. “That’s really the date. If we couldn’t get it up by January or even December, then why rush and spend more money just to get it up for one month and then to take it right back down. We’ve delayed that.”

Funding is in place for the $7.2 million project, which is 100% privately funded and includes $315,000 raised by UM’s 2001 national championship football team last year during their 20th-anniversary season. The facility will make Montana the first Big Sky school with an inflatable practice structure.

It’s the latest in a string of infrastructure projects in Haslam’s tenure. Others include the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center, the Coyle Recovery Room, the Eric and Blair Sprunk Student-Athlete Academic Center, the creation of a softball program and field, and a new locker room for men’s basketball. Also on the horizon is a new women’s basketball locker room.

This indoor practice facility will get the Griz on a closer level facility-wise with other national powerhouse programs. North Dakota State is scheduled to open its indoor practice facility at an estimated cost of $50 million this fall. South Dakota State spent $32 million on its facility in 2014. Both of those are permanent structures, hence the higher cost.

“The funding is all in place,” Haslam said. “We’ve got the authority from the Board of Regents. We’re all ready to go from that standpoint. We’ve started to bulk buy some of the product: the turf and the dome, the fabric that goes over, all those things. They’ll just be held onto.”

One thing fans at the game Saturday will see is that the beer garden is back for a second year.

The beer garden debuted last year outside the south side of the stadium with the university running it through dining services. The Badlander, which holds the liquor license, won a bid again this year to supply staffing and product, Haslam noted.

There won’t be any major changes to the beer garden this year because UM made alterations on a week-to-week basis last fall. They created a gap between the stadium fence and beer garden fence to prevent people from passing beers to others in the stadium. They also worked to make the entrance into and exit out of the beer garden more efficient.

“Certainly, there’s a revenue component to it, so we did make money off of selling beer,” Haslam said of why the beer garden is returning. “It went extremely well. There were not any serious incidents, really no incidents. That was really the main reason for bringing it back is last year proved that it would work. I think it was a good addition to what we did.”

The temperature is expected to reach 98 degrees on Saturday. It’s projected to be 88 degrees around 1 p.m. when the game begins.

In the past, Montana has played home games in September at night. They hosted Western Illinois at 6 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2021, North Alabama at 7 p.m. on Sept. 7, 2019, and Northern Iowa at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2018.

“Northwestern State really wanted to kick this one earlier in the day so they could get back,” Haslam said. “That was a negotiation point we had with them when we paid to bring them in here. We knew it could be 95 or it could be raining and cold. It looks like it’ll be warm, so my precaution is people to make sure you got hats on and sunscreen. We’ll work to make sure there’s plenty of water. It’ll be a good day.”

Parking and tailgating is being affected this year because of ongoing construction for the new Montana Museum of Art & Culture.

The MMAC is being built in the northeast corner of Parking Lot P, across from the Student Rec Center. Parking to the south of the building will return at some point, but it’s being used as a construction area right now.

“That certainly impacts us on game day,” Haslam said. “Our game operations people have diligently communicated with people who are affected by the parking. It will displace parking. It will change the flow of traffic. Game one on Saturday, certainly expect some things to be moved. There will be some people that need to learn a new routine.”

Another reason to arrive early is to skip the long entrance lines into the stadium.

UM will be short-staffed again this year at games, Haslam noted, because they’ve been affected like other businesses with finding and keeping employees. This is the second year that UM is using an all-digital platform for tickets, so he hopes things will go more smoothly with that.

“My advice would be to pace yourself, spread around the stadium,” he said. “We’ll have long lines on the north end and no one waiting on the south end because everyone’s coming from tailgating. Be patient, get here as early as you can, but if you rush the doors 20 minutes before kickoff, it’s going to be crowded.”

Frank Gogola is the Senior Sports Reporter at the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at

The $7.2 million project is expected to be completed by the spring of 2023.

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