Bobcat Stadium turf project

Montana State's FieldTurf project as seen from the south-east corner of Bobcat Stadium on Wednesday in Bozeman.

BOZEMAN — Veteran administrator Dan Davies joked that he’s been a member of the Montana State athletic staff for “a thousand years.”

In truth, the 2017-18 academic year will be Davies’ 38th with the Bobcats. He’s the dean of the department.

Davies started as an assistant football coach in 1980, then moved to the front office in 1988. He has since risen to the role of senior associate athletic director for internal operations.

He’s seen all there is to see through the years, from the renovations and expansions of Bobcat Stadium and Brick Breeden Fieldhouse to the current FieldTurf installation project at MSU’s 45-year-old football facility.

Davies is the athletic department’s overseer of the ongoing synthetic turf project, which is replacing a turf that was installed before the 2008 season.

“The progress has been good,” Davies said Wednesday at Bobcat Stadium as crews were adding yard-line numbers to the new rug. “I think they’ll have a real good shot of being done by the end of next week.”

That’s good news because the MSU football coaches will open Day 1 of the annual summer youth camps June 14. The project began May 21.

As of Thursday afternoon, the turf was down, the numbers, yard lines and hash marks were in, the Bobcat-head logo had been laid at midfield and “Montana State” was being stitched into each blue end zone.

The undertaking is another piece of the advancement puzzle for Bobcat Stadium, which was built in 1973 and has undergone several improvements. First was the renovation of the west grandstand and construction of the north end zone blockhouses in 1998, followed by the original FieldTurf project in 2008, the creation of the south grandstand and addition a new LED scoreboard behind the north end zone in 2011, and the inclusion of lights in 2012.

Davies has been around for all of it. But the new turf won’t be the final piece.

As the athletic department continues to hash out the finer details of its strategic plan and accompanying facilities master plan, Davies said a potential renovation to the decaying east grandstand at Bobcat Stadium is “a high priority, there’s no doubt.”

The east grandstand is the last relic of the original construction of what was then known as Reno H. Sales Stadium in 1973. And it’s shown its age for years.

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“This is original decking right here,” Davies said, pointing to the stands. “Something is going to happen relatively soon. It just needs to. We’re getting real close to saying, ‘All right, what’s going to happen first?’ We’ve got a bunch of options right now, but we’re feeling our way through, and we’re going to make a decision and go.”

Davies added: “We can envision potential low seating up here, suites, meeting rooms, those type of things.”

It’s been nine years since Montana State announced its original six-phase plan to expand and fully bowl-in Bobcat Stadium. But that strategy — the first phase was the proposed renovation and addition of sky suites to the east grandstand — never took shape.

The construction of the south end zone stands in 2011, at a cost of $10 million after the Bobcats beat Montana and made the FCS playoffs behind then-freshman quarterback DeNarius McGhee, was a watershed addition.

Davies gave more insight, albeit approximate (which is important to remember) into what the department envisions for its facilities master plan.

In the north end zone, “We could do some things there,” he mused. “A nice football building here with offices and meeting rooms, locker room, that type of thing.”

It’s not all about football, though. Davies stressed MSU’s priority for an academic center and the impending facelift for the surface at the outdoor track and field complex, and juxtaposed those needs with what the department’s initial thoughts have been on the east grandstand.

“The thing that makes it hard for people to understand is that (the football bleachers are) used six times a year, seven times a year, eight maybe if you make the playoffs. So how much do you put here?” he said. “The important things are an academic center — that’s going to be a huge thing for us — office space, meeting rooms, a weight room, a training room, things that all of our student-athletes are going to be able to benefit from.

“Let’s just say we do an indoor practice facility. All the athletes will be able to use it, but it would be primarily for football and track, for the most part. With the fieldhouse having been built in 1956, ’57, that needs a lot of work, and we’ve piecemealed a lot of things together to make it better.

“If we can get the football offices out of there and move them into a complex somewhere, then that area could be a great academic center. We’ve got all kinds of offices in there, meeting rooms, computer space. So then every athlete in the department would benefit from that, by putting the football offices somewhere else.

“It’s just kind of a shuffle. But you can’t get anything until that first domino falls.”