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Fast progress being made on construction of MSU-Northern's football stadium


April 24, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A view looking west at the construction site of the new football stadium at Montana State University-Northern earlier this week. The bowling in of the stadium has already been completed, with a huge amount of earth having been moved according to Northern Chancellor Greg Kegel. The construction of the new stadium began just three weeks ago, but, progress is being made quickly. Kegel said this week that, Northern hopes to be playing games in the stadium by the October portion of the Lights' schedule, at the latest. MSU-N is set to open its season Aug. 29 against Arizona Christian in Havre.

Montana State University-Northern Chancellor Greg Kegel has had a vision for an on-campus football stadium for quite some time now.

And three weeks after ground-breaking on the stadium, Kegel's vision is really coming into focus.

Excavation work has been the first phase of construction on the stadium site, which sits at the western-most end of Northern's campus. In fact, according to Kegel, as of Tuesday, 55,000 cubic feet of earth has been moved, and that's an impressive start.

"It would have been a lot easier to just put the stadium up on top there like it was," Kegel said. "But I always pictured, and I really wanted a bowl effect for the stadium. I think it gives it much more of a stadium feel than if it would have just been up on top, and also, the way it will be, it will be really protected from the prevailing winds in Havre. So what they've done with how much dirt they've moved, it's amazing."

Amazing indeed. But Kegel has long envisioned the stadium at Northern to be amazing. And now, it's finally transitioning from a dream to reality, as Phase I of the project is well underway, and is scheduled to open in the fall.

"There's really two parts to it," Kegel said. "Creating an on-campus football stadium, for our football program, having a facility for our program on campus was certainly one. But, the planning and designing of this facility is so much more than about just football. From the beginning, it's been important that this is a facility for the entire campus, and for our community. That's what we've always strived for with this project, and we've always felt that, in order for this university to grow, you need to do projects like this one. So at the end of the day, it's always been intended to be something more than just a football field. It's going to be a game-changer for our university as a whole."

And the early stages of the project are really starting to take shape. Tuesday, Kegel said most of the initial dirt work and the bowling in of the stadium has already been completed. The bowling in of the stadium features large berms on the north and south sides of the stadium, as well the west end. At that end of the stadium, a large scoreboard and video screen, as well as a barrier and netting will be the prominent feature. Bleachers and a press box will be housed on one side of the field, while the future Phase II of the project with more seating and the planned athletic and wellness complex will sit at the other side. The east end of the stadium will have an open concept with an entrance place, and other facilities and amenities.

Also, Kegel noted that, above the north side of the stadium will sit Northern's new grass practice field and practice facility, which, he said, will be another game-changer for campus.

"If you look at what's been done, you'll see how they already raised up and then leveled that end of the complex," Kegel said. "That will be where our new practice field will be, and it will have all underground irrigation. That area is going to be big for not only our football team, but we also envision where we can do a lot of other campus activities there, such as intramural and those things. And I envision that, if we were to ever add women's softball, that's an area we could expand for that, so that part of this project will eventually benefit our entire campus."

Grass will eventually be a big part of the project as well. Though the stadium itself will feature a turf field, the entire area will be landscaped, which Kegel said is another big, but important undertaking.

"If you go up there right now, you might think, wow look at all this dirt," he said. "But everything up there is going to be professionally landscaped, with underground sprinklers. So again, that's going to give our campus a whole different feel. When that's all done, it's going to look really good."

In many ways, it already does. In just three weeks time, the site has been completely transformed, and, visually, the concept of what Northern's on-campus stadium will look like, is really becoming quite clear.

Of course, there's a lot of work to be done but, Kegel said, literally every day the project will show progress.

"The big first step was developing the infrastructure," he said. "Then it's about what comes next. They've already done a lot of work. The dirt has been moved. This week, they're already working on the footings for the bleachers and press box. That part of it will go up pretty quickly.

"The field itself, once it's leveled, then the prep work for the field can begin," he continued. "We had hoped to have the turf done by the start of fall camp, but with COVID-19, we don't know if that's possible right now. But overall, they're making great progress, and when you drive by each day, you'll be able to see that progress. It's literally going to look different every day and that's exciting."

Of course, the really exciting part will be when the Lights take to the field in front of their fans someday. And while Kegel can't give an exact date on when that will be, he said, he full, believes Northern will play games in their new stadium this fall.

"The initial push was to have it all done and open for the first game (Aug. 29)," Kegel said. "But with COVID, things have become a little more uncertain. So, I think that first game in October is probably more realistic. That's when I envision us playing games in our stadium."

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Whether it's August or October, it's going to happen, and that's the most important thing. And just with the first three weeks of construction, everyone can see that, the Lights will be playing in their own stadium sooner, rather than later, and the progress made, even in the early stages of construction, is affirmation of a dream, that's now becoming a reality.

"Even if it's not quite done when our kids get back to campus, it will be close enough that they're going to see it, they're going see what this is all about," Kegel said. "And that will be really exciting. Again, this project is a game-changer for everybody involved, it's more than just a football field. A lot more, and it's exciting to just drive by there and see it all coming together."

The Lights' home-opener is set for Aug. 29 against Arizona Christian.


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