Brick Breeden Fieldhouse: 50 years and going strong
by Diana Setterberg
On Jan. 11, 1957, the day the new MSU fieldhouse was unveiled to the public, an article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle said "Architect Ozzie Berg has planned a building as new as the day after tomorrow."
|When it was built in 1957, the MSU fieldhouse's 300-foot diameter dome was the second-largest dome in the country and the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world. The then-unusual design by architect Oswald (Ozzie) Berg, Jr. has stood the test of five decades.
Fifty years later, university officials agree with the paper's prediction that the building would keep up with a growing population and a vastly expanded university.
"The success of the fieldhouse over the 50 years is directly attributed to the flexibility the venue offers," said Duane Morris, director of events and marketing for auxiliary services at MSU. "The ability to do rodeo on Saturday and a Broadway show on a Tuesday is probably the greatest strength of this building.
"It's not unusual for university towns to have venues like this," Morris added. "What's unusual is to go back 50 years. What other campus had the foresight and vision to build a building like this, also build a building that would have this flexibility?"
Bill Lamberty, MSU's sports information director for the past 16 years, agrees that the facility has ably served MSU athletics and the community for the past half-century, and he expects it will continue to do so in the future.
"The fieldhouse will serve the university for years to come," he said. "One of the great things about this place is how adaptability was designed into this building. There haven't been very many needs come along in the last 50 years that this building hasn't been able to accommodate in terms of athletics."
An almost $12-million renovation to the fieldhouse in the late '90s made a tremendous difference in the building's functionality, he said.
"The improvement has been tremendous, mostly in terms of usability and how functional the space is now," Lamberty said. "The renovation really made it possible for the athletic department to move into the 21st century."
Another big change for the building was its formal dedication in 1981 to the late John W. "Brick" Breeden, whose notable involve-ment with Montana State athletics spanned decades.
In terms of hosting non-athletic events, Morris also feels that the versatility of the fieldhouse, as well as its geographical location, have made it as viable a venue for big-name entertainment as it was in 1957.
"In the past six to eight years, we have seen the fieldhouse clearly establish itself as the hot play in Montana," he said. "The building capacity of 8,000 seats, combined with the central location in the state, has definitely allowed us to market ourselves as the logical single play for shows like Fleetwood Mac."
That band played the fieldhouse in 2004, and other big names such as Tom Petty, Snoop Dogg and Matchbox 20 have been recent performers.
That flexibility bodes well for the fieldhouse's future, Morris added.
"If you compare it with new arenas being built, it doesn't have suites and club levels and lounges, but the other things that it offers outweigh those, and those are things that can be addressed in the future," he said.
Lamberty agrees. "I think this place has a great future," he said. "I don't think anyone can think of Bozeman in the future without the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse."
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