MISSOULA — While football season is in full swing, the University of Montana had some big men’s basketball news last week when the school announced that the team’s locker rooms would see significant renovations worth $2 million.
The program will receive a renovated locker room with expanded space that will feature a players’ lounge, coaches’ locker room and a team meeting room.
Montana athletic director Kent Haslam said this upgrade was Phase 2 of UM’s master plan that was created not long after he took the job.
“We did an athletic facility master plan soon after I became the athletic director, so probably in 2013 and 2014, and prior to the building of the Champions Center,” Haslam said. “The next phase of that master plan was starting to utilize the space vacated when we built the Champions Center and so now we’ve just moved on to Phase 2. ... It takes into where the old weight room was so it’s just re-purposing space. We’re not building new space.”
Phase 1 of this master plan was the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center, Montana’s $14 million building that was opened in 2017. Phase 2, Haslam said, was to utilize the men’s basketball space, relocate the equipment room, and after that, they can use that old space for expanded women’s locker room areas, which would make up Phase 3.
Once the Champions Center was built, the old football locker room has been unused. So that is where the renovated and expanded men’s basketball locker room, lounge and equipment center will go. The empty space from that will turn into expanded locker rooms for the Lady Griz and women’s volleyball team.
Those renovations will take effect once the fundraising is met.
Haslam said Phase 2 of the plan began to get steam about a year ago.
“It’s probably been about a year that we started to tackle it head-on,” he said. “Certainly, the success of basketball has helped that. After you do a really large project like the Champions Center, you get a little bit of donor fatigue, and we didn’t leave any rock unturned to get that Champions Center built.
“You kind of have to give people a little bit of time off and let them process through those Champion Center commitments they made, but that allows you to go back and say, 'Hey, let’s do the next part of this.'”
While the back-to-back men’s basketball appearances in the NCAA Tournament have helped maybe speed up some of the fundraising, Haslam said the location within the Adams Center is a big reason why this is next on the docket for upgrades. He credited sixth-year head coach Travis DeCuire for spearheading a lot of the fundraising, as well.
The target timeline for these renovations is before the beginning of the 2020-21 basketball season.
“The response has been great,” Haslam said. “We had some good donors step up with large gifts right up and that, really, is what springboards you right in.”
Haslam said there were a couple of lead donors in this new project who gave an amount in the “half a million-dollar range.” From there, they could build.
This newest project is another in a string of things Haslam has overseen since he took the athletic director job in 2012. From new turf in the football stadium, to the new softball complex when UM added the sport in 2015, and new scoreboards in Washington-Grizzly Stadium and Dahlberg Arena, Haslam estimates that it has been about $25 million worth of investments in his time at Montana.
That also includes the academic center, new tennis courts and the resurfacing of the track. He said they’ve been able to accomplish these goals thanks to private donations, fundraising and partnerships such as the one UM has with Learfield Communications.
Along with the continued renovations within the Adams Center, Haslam mentioned an indoor practice facility was something else they’ve talked about, but that is something far down the road.
“Through a lot of hard work from a lot of people, we’ve really made some significant changes to the infrastructure and I really feel like we’re not done,” Haslam said. “There’s still things we want to get done and we’ll continue to do.”