SPRING 1997 Montanan - Volume 14, Number 3
An architect's rendering of the redesigned Dahlberg Arena.
by Rita Munzenrider
The biggest contests inside Dahlberg Arena these days are not between the Grizzlies and longstanding rivals: they are among Grizzly coaches volleying for practice space. Gone are the days when basketball had full reign over the court: today's basketball teams compete with volleyball, track, soccer and football teams when poor weather drives practices indoors. "Practice space is critical," says athletic director Wayne Hogan. "We literally have coaches fighting each other for space."
With the proposed $23 million renovation of the Harry Adams Field House, these space problems will be eliminated before the end of the century. The addition of an auxiliary gymnasium will give coaches and teams an alternative practice site and provide a permanent home for Lady Griz volleyball.
The University will undertake its most ambitious remodeling project when construction crews begin gutting the forty-four-year-old building next spring. Of the $23 million total, $16 million has been financed through the sale of revenue bonds, which will be repaid with monies generated by the increased use of the new events center. An estimated 340,000 patrons will pass through the facility annually, attending events ranging from concerts and trade shows to religious programs and sports contests. The remaining $7 million will come from private funding-the University is targeting firms with an interest in western Montana and its future, Hogan says.
When the new events center opens in late 1999, its interior will sport new scoreboards and video systems, premium suites and more accessible restrooms and concession booths. And the seats-complete with back and arm rests-will be designed for maximum comfort and visibility, says Hogan, noting that no seat will be more than 110 feet from the floor. Instead of adding more seats that would send ticket holders to the rafters, he says, "We decided to create an intimate atmosphere."
Student athletes will also benefit from a new weight room, training center and women's locker room. "I'm excited that we'll be getting a first-class facility to recruit to and play in," says Lady Griz head coach Robin Selvig. "When you look at the places we play, we're behind many, if not most, of the schools we compete against with regard to facilities."
A Center for the Next Century
As the campus of the future began to take shape in 1994, University leaders envisioned a special events center that would serve Missoula in the coming millennium. Preliminary plans called for a new building that would seat up to 13,000 and house events ranging from Grizzly basketball games to large conventions. Initially estimated at $25 million, the construction project doubled in cost as planning progressed, and the University decided it couldn't afford to build the new center. Architects and engineers went back to the drawing boards. Renovating the existing facility became the best option.
"During the last few years we've looked at the needs of the institution and the community and how we can meet the challenges of continued growth," says UM President George Dennison. "What we have here will serve the athletic and cultural needs of the University, while also serving the community."
Down the Road Plans
Construction will displace Grizzly basketball for the 1998-99 season. Most of the season's games will be played at nearby Sentinel High School in Missoula, and plans for televising the games are in the works. Fans elsewhere in Montana can also see Grizzly hoopsters in action; plans call for playing pre-conference games in Butte, Great Falls and Billings.
When the new events center opens, Lady Griz point guard Megan Harrington looks forward to fewer scheduling conflicts for practice time in what will be her final season. "It will be a sacrifice for both the fans and the players," she says of the renovation project, "but it will be well worth it."