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Montana State can't wait to christen renovated stadium
Built in 1973, Bobcat Stadium has hosted some of the most preeminent moments in the annals of Montana State football.
This weekend marks the beginning of a new chapter for the venerable facility.
MSU will christen its newly refurbished digs when it hosts non-conference foe UC Davis for its annual “Gold Rush” home opener at 1 p.m. Saturday in Bozeman.
Bobcat Stadium underwent a large-scale expansion during the offseason, one that added a capacious grandstand that curls around the south end zone, as well as a state-of-the-art video scoreboard that rises high above the north side.
The new end zone section can house up to 7,200 fans — a net gain of about 5,200 seats — which brings the stadium’s total capacity to nearly 18,000.
“It’s going to be a privilege to play in an environment like that,” said sophomore receiver Tanner Bleskin. “I get excited just looking at it. So to think about what it’s going to be like … it’ll be pretty amazing.”
And MSU is pulling out all the stops to ring in the occasion.
A dedication ceremony is scheduled for Friday night, beginning with a public reception. Game-day festivities will include an alumni tailgate, live music, skydivers and pregame fireworks.
The goal for fifth-year coach Rob Ash and his staff is to make sure their players aren’t consumed by the hype.
“It won’t be like the comfortable confines we’re used to,” Ash said. “It’ll be a much different feeling. I just hope our guys can stay focused on the game and not get too caught up in the atmosphere.”
Expansion plans for the stadium were announced by the athletic department more than two years before ground was broken in late January. The arrival of new university president Waded Cruzado put the wheels in motion.
The university reached its $10 million fundraising goal in early January — just 15 months after Cruzado was hired and less than three months after announcing the campaign.
The expansion represents the third major renovation to the stadium in the last 14 years.
Bobcat Stadium was first renovated in 1998 at a price tag of $12 million, which included the overhaul of the stadium’s west side and the addition of 38 sky boxes. In 2008, natural grass was replaced with FieldTurf.
The Bobcats won the Big Sky Conference title last season and earned a first-round bye to the FCS playoffs, and fans came out in droves. MSU easily set a school attendance record as a combined total of more than 100,000 fans filled Bobcat Stadium through seven home dates.
They have a chance to cruise well past that mark this year, beginning with Saturday’s game.
“We can’t wait,” Ash said. “We’ve watched it grow from the ground up, but it’s always been just an empty, concrete shell.
“It will be fun to see that end zone come alive and to get a sense of how it will affect the game-day experience.”