RIBBON CUT, LEGEND HONORED
Mike Tilleman and family honored during Northern's first stadium celebration
Last updated 8/27/2020 at 8:29am
The Montana State University-Northern Lights, and their fans, are going to have to wait a while longer to see a game inside the new stadium on Northern's campus. And yet, that didn't stop a celebration from becoming a very special moment Wednesday night.
With the field now fully installed, and Phase I construction at the new stadium nearing completion, Northern decided to combine its annual welcome back staff and faculty barbecue with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the stadium Wednesday evening.
The ceremony, however, was much more than just unveiling the field and stadium. It was also a time to honor Mike Tilleman and his family for all they've done for Northern, the football program, and the stadium.
Mike and Gloria, along with much of their family, were on hand for Wednesday night's event, where MSU-N Chancellor Greg Kegel honored Tilleman for all of his contributions.
"Mike was the original push to bring football back to Northern," Kegel said in an interview earlier Wednesday. "To get a program up and running like that, it took a lot, and Mike was the one who made so much of that possible. He also started the NALSF Pheasant Jamboree Fundrasier, which has been so amazing, and raised so much money for the football program and for Northern athletics over the years. And he, of course, has been instrumental in helping us get this stadium project going. I mean, Mike has just done so much for Northern, and so much for the football program. And we are so grateful, so today is about honoring him and his family. We wanted him to be here for this moment, and to make sure we all get a chance to thank him and his family for everything he's done for Northern and the football program."
Tilleman was on hand for what turned out to be a special set of events inside the new stadium, and on the brand new turf.
The evening started with the official ribbon cutting, with Kegel and Shantel Cronk assisting Northern head coach Andrew Rolin in officially cutting the ribbon for the new stadium. The football team and volleyball team were also introduced, before the first American Flag was raised on the new flag pole at the east end of the stadium. The national anthem was also performed for the first time at the new stadium.
Later, the Northern football team ran an official play to score the first touchdown and kick the first extra point in the stadium. The ball was signed by the entire team and presented to Tilleman by Rolin and the team.
"Mike is one of a kind," Kegel said. "He's a legend in our community, and he's been so generous and so helpful with Northern, we just can't thank him enough. And it's not just all the things you see here; he's done so much more that people haven't heard about. We are just so blessed to have him and his family as Northern supporters."
Kegel and Cronk also publicly thanked all of the donors who have helped make the new stadium at Northern go from a dream to a reality. The project has been years in the making, but it finally got underway in March, and now, Phase I is on its way to completion. Of course, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Lights won't be playing games inside the new stadium this fall, but they may be able to hold some practices there before a possible spring season kicks off in February.
Though we all have to wait for games to be played in the new stadium, Kegel was still emotional about the progress, as well as being able to honor Tilleman Wednesday night.
"We just wanted to be able to thank Mike and his family, to honor him for everything he's done," Kegel said. "We wouldn't be where we are without Mike Tilleman. And it's amazing to see, cars drive by and look at this stadium every day. You already have a sense of just how proud the community is of this project, and how excited people are to see games in here. And I'm excited. It's due to the hard work and generosity of some many people, and it's something we're all really proud of."
While Wednesday night's events were special, Kegel also noted that, the official naming of the field and stadium will come at a later date. The Frontier Conference postponed the 2020 season to next spring, which likely means Northern's first game in the new stadium will be in either March or April.