MISSOULA — The University of Montana soccer program is finishing a much-needed goal this summer, thanks to a perfect assist from one memorable night.
On a beautiful August evening, more than 25,000 fans packed into Washington-Grizzly Stadium to watch Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Pearl Jam. But few in attendance realized that, while Missoula resident Jeff Ament strummed his bass and Eddie Vedder belted out “Even Flow”, they were all providing a more even playing field for the Griz soccer team, literally.
Griz athletics chips in to help the Adams Center staff whenever a big show comes to the stadium, so the Grizzlies receive a cut of the profits.
“It’s unique because you don’t get large influxes of un-budgeted money very often,” said UM associate athletic director for business operations Ryan Martin. “So when we saw that Pearl Jam was coming to town and we knew that we were going to have that revenue, we tried to identify the things that we could use the money for.”
One project kept coming up in discussions. South Campus Stadium, the home of Griz soccer, has received only small improvements since it opened in 1995. Everyone agreed the playing surface needed a major upgrade, and suddenly, thanks to the concert, they held $200,000. The price tag for a new surface from Desert Green Turf ran about $180,000.
“Irrigation is a huge upgrade for us,” said Griz soccer coach Chris Citowicki. “And then you start adding all of the other pieces, too, with the leveling of the field, because it did slope in places, it just was bumpy.”
Citowicki added that his team played much better on the road at high-quality fields than they sometimes did at home on an uneven field that created injury concerns. Desert Green Turf is the same company that rolls out a temporary grass surface in CenturyLink Arena every time the Seattle Sounders play a home game, and the new surface they installed in Missoula rivals those you find at much bigger programs.
The entire process feels like a victory for everyone. A fantastic concert at a great venue helps the university upgrade other facilities. So naturally the question comes up, why not hold more concerts?
“It’s making sure that you don’t miss out on those shows if they’re available,” said Martin. “But then also just getting lucky a little bit, and those artists routing a certain way and wanting to come play in this sort of setting.”
Citowicki admits he’s never been a Pearl Jam fan, but now he’d stand first in line for tickets if the band decides to return.
“The Pearl Jam connection to Missoula, and now having that money going into the field, I feel like we should rename it the Pearl Jam Field,” said Citowicki with a smile. “I’m ready to do that. We’ll see what the university says.”
When Paul McCartney made his stop in Washington-Grizzly Stadium in 2014, Griz athletics made enough money to resurface the tennis courts on campus.