Athletic Facilities Score Improvements

People say to be the best, surround yourself with the best. So when it comes to Grizzly Athletics, people naturally assume we have top-tier facilities. And from an outside perspective, we do. Washington Grizzly Stadium and Dahlberg Arena are facilities envied by fans and athletes around the Big Sky Conference and, indeed, around the country.

But the UM Athletics facilities need a facelift, in spaces only UM student-athletes see: the academic center, the weight room, and the locker rooms. For too long, these facilities have been neglected, and they’re in serious need of upgrades and repairs. You’ll understand this if you get a chance to talk to linebacker Jordan Tripp, a third-generation football star for the Grizzlies. (His grandfather, Gene, was a tackle for the Griz in 1963-64; his father, Bryan, was a starting linebacker in 1989-90.) “We’re not even in season right now, but I’ve been at school since 5:30 this morning. Even in the off-season, I’m easily using the academic center, the weight room or the training room for five to seven hours. In season, I literally live there; it’s a home. So I put it to people this way: Would you want mold on the walls of your home? Or your bathrooms out of order? Or have all the computers and printers at your office broken?”

Kent Haslam, associate athletic director for development, agrees with Tripp’s assessment. “The external facilities—what the public sees—are wonderful. But our internal facilities are in desperate need of repair.”

President Engstrom’s initiative for athletic facility improvements is on the verge of helping UM correct the neglect. As part of the initiative, the University will construct a new academic center, renovate the locker rooms and expand the weight room, as well as install permanent lights at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. These improvements align with two UM strategic goals: partnering for student success, and providing a dynamic learning environment.

The future is shining brightly for this initiative thanks to enthusiastic donor support. For instance, the Grizzly Scholarship Association committed to match all new donations to facility improvements up to $500,000. And, according to Haslam, donors are responding.

Two of those donors, Patrick and Toni Montalban, have been long time UM supporters. “For starters,” Patrick says, “everyone in our family is a UM graduate: my wife and I, and both of our kids.” But that support started even before that, with Patrick’s father, Joseph. “I remember my father and I were able to be among the first donors when they were building the basketball court at the Fieldhouse. And at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, my father leased one of the original boxes; we’ve been box owners ever since.”

It’s safe to say, then, that support for UM runs in the family for the Montalbans. “We’re always there to support the University and the University System,” he says without hesitation. “When we were first approached about this, a few things immediately stood out. It was pretty clear that we needed to do something with the weight room and lockers. We knew we needed to do this to help us continue to bring in some high quality kids. Look at how many UM athletes have gone on to play and succeed at the professional level.”

Montalban pauses, then adds an important point. “Obviously, not all the athletes who come through UM end up as professional players…but they end up as professionals. That’s one of the great parts of being a part of The University of Montana; that’s why we wanted to support this project, and support improving the academic lives of our athletes.”

That includes, of course, athletes such as Jordan Tripp, who looks forward to his time in the new athletic facilities. “It’s going to be great to see the results,” he says. “I’ve been present for a number of meetings about the facilities, and I’m excited; we’ve talked about it for so long, and now it’s time to do it.”

To contribute to the project, contact Kent Haslam, associate athletic director for development, at 406.243.6294 or kent.haslam@mso.umt.edu.