When fans pack Dahlberg Arena for a concert or a basketball game, they’re treated to a bird’s-eye view of the action in a facility that stands among the best in the region.

But it’s a different story behind the scenes. Musicians are treated to sparse accommodations, while visiting football and basketball teams are housed in cramped and outdated facilities.

“You look at our stadium and it’s the best in FCS football, and our basketball arena is top notch,” said Brad Murphy, director of the Adams Center. “But our ancillary facilities – our locker rooms, weight rooms and dressing rooms – they’re not adequate right now. We need a lot of upgrades.”

This June, work will begin to renovate and modernize the facility’s outdated accommodations, including an academic center for student-athletes, a new main entry to the Adams Center – which houses Dahlberg Arena – and a project to add new locker and dressing rooms for athletes and performers.

Standing behind a bank of doors on Wednesday morning, Murphy explained the vision, noting how the facility will be expanded westward by 4,000 square feet, bringing three new levels of purpose to the arena.

“This main level will serve as a big foyer entry for us,” Murphy said. “We’ll spruce that up and make a nice façade. Visitors will be able to see it a little better coming into the Adams Center.”

The $2.5 million project, paid entirely with private funds, also includes a new academic center for student-athletes, located on the top floor. Work in the basement, just off the arena, will expand the locker and dressing rooms for performers and visiting teams.

There, in a dark corner of the arena beyond a practicing Lewis-Clark State College basketball team, Murphy entered the two visiting locker rooms, each no larger than a bedroom. The facilities are dated and sparse, and for visiting teams and performers, the space is limited.

“Right now, we have to try and use our student-athletes’ locker rooms when we host high-school tournaments, and that doesn’t work well at all, because they’re in season,” Murphy said. “You have to displace our student-athletes to put these high school teams in there.”

***

It’s not much better on the performance side, which shares the same space. Most large productions require six to eight large dressing rooms to accommodate performers – something the center lacks, offering just two.

Murphy believes the new accommodations will help the Adams Center draw more entertainers – those on par with Rascal Flatts, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and the Zac Brown Band, which plays the arena this month.

“Being able to present six to eight new dressing rooms and locker rooms with separate vanities and separate toiletries will make a huge difference for us,” Murphy said. “Tour managers, booking managers and promoters, they all talk. Is Missoula a good place to go? You’re relying on your reputation, and you have to offset the things we don’t have.”

Concerts held in the arena seat 5,800 people, making it one of the smallest venues in the region. The Brick Breeden Fieldhouse at Montana State University seats around 8,000 people for concerts, while MetraPark in Billings seats around 10,000, Murphy said.

The Adams Center has rarely had a problem filling seats. The recent Rascal Flatts and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis concerts sold out, though the Adams Center was the smallest venue on their tours. The lack of seating, which limits tickets sales, will always prevent big shows – think Lady Gaga and U2 – from playing the arena.

But the upgrades may help draw musicians on par with Elton John, James Taylor and Carrie Underwood, all who recently played the venue. Murphy said the center’s location on Interstate 90 helps, though the southern route through Portland, Ore., Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City makes for stiff competition, as does a similar route through Canada.

“Sometimes you win that and sometimes you lose that,” Murphy said. “We worked really hard to get Mumford & Sons, I mean really hard, but they routed north through Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver (in Canada).”

Murphy believes the new facilities will help the Adams Center compete for shows. The reputation is in place, he said, and the new accommodations may go a long ways in leveling the playing field.

Construction is expected to begin in June and last for nearly a year. Additional private funding will be sought to complete work in the basement.

“We work closely with UM Productions, and the reputation that has been built over the years helps us land some shows,” said Murphy. “We have a lot of people in the industry we utilize to bring shows to Missoula. If we can show that we have these amenities, they’re more willing to come here.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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(10) comments

yougotitwrong22

still they lost.kmw1971. they cant beat bigger schools. you forget mt is a big fish in a small small small pond put youre money where youre mouth is. rapenation fans.

Objective observer

Boy, those South Alabama facilities sure made for a good football team last year, didn't they? They were 2-11.

KMW1971

You gorierwrong is a troll nothing more.

KMW1971

So I point out some inaccuracies in your comment and you come back with Rapenation. What are you 12? And you still didn't admit that what you posted about the Tennessee game was an exaggeration and about Montana never beating an FBS team as just plain wrong. Instead you had to result to classless insults. Montana's football program's objective is not to beat FBS teams but to win the Big Sky, beat MSU, make the playoffs, and compete for national championships. They've done a pretty good job of that so far. Good luck to South Alabama, I have nothing against that school and their football program. As far as you go, I think what you are is commonly referred to as a Troll. Stay classy.

Leadfoot

ACTUALLY, Obamagotit.....errrrrr yougotitwrong got it right: the Liberal University game plan is just like the City's. SPEND when you have a 3+ million dollar "budget shortage." Drop in student numbers after a decade of buried rape stories that couldn't stay buried anymore. You fire a great coach and AD with integrity who warned but no one would listen, have a budget shortage, and then like all Liberals decide to spend more. Let me tell you. The facilities have nothing to do with how our athletes perform. Do we need the upgrade? Maybe yes, but we DON'T HAVE THE MONEY FOR IT. At least that is what the University has been crying. It is also in the midst of a huge expansion to the Northeast. Tens of Millions. Of course, this activity covers the Administration's shortcomings in how women have been protected, how a Saudi student was given an early-bird warning so that he could blow the country. And, thus, a drop in student admission numbers. The U will make excuses as to what the causes are, but none will fall on the truth. It's time for the tax and spenders to realize that there has to be a limit as to how many times you can go to the well. When fans stop paying $3 for a Coke at the football games, and stop paying more for season tickets than fans pay in the Big Ten, the days of waste will be over and it is coming. Put off a building project next time before you jump into the fire and then have to justify your body burns in the ER under ObamaCare. There comes a time when anyone must fall on his sword.

Waltzing Matilda

Under the direction of George Dennison, the Adams Center was completely remodeled several years ago. Before the remodel, the Adams Center had a seating capacity of about 9,300 for basketball. After the remodel, the seating capacity was lowered to 7,500 for basketball. Concert seating capacity was also reduced.

Millions of dollars were spent on this remodel which almost killed the basketball program because they were forced to play all of their home games at Sentinel High School.

For not much more money than was spent on this remodel, UM could have built a new modern arena with a considerably larger seating capacity and better locker rooms and dressing rooms. Lower seating capacity and high costs to rent this facility are the biggest reasons why there are not many big concerts or high school tournaments. Locker/dressing rooms are really a small issue.

Thank you George Dennison for yet another blunder.

yougotitwrong22

u of m has a lot to learn about facilities believe me they could learn from southern alabama football program. they are new to fbs they used to be a small program and this year they almost upset tenn which mt lost by 50 points! i saw a tour of u of m facilitys on youtube and i have to say what a joke there weight room sucks. there coaches room is so small. hey you want be the best play the best and compete with the best which mt has never been able to upset a fbs team.

KMW1971

First Montana played Tennessee in 2011. Tennessee scored 42 points, so it would be hard to claim they beat Montana by 50. Final was 42. - 16. Again no where near a 50 point margin of victory you claim. FCS schools play with 20 or so less scholarships than FBS schools like Tennessee. Montana was playing with a sophomore QB starting his first ever college game in front of 90,000 plus. Montana had some nice plays in that game that made Tennessee look silly. Try being accurate when posting, exaggeration makes you sound 12.

KMW1971

Montana has beat FBS Idaho twice. Also, beat Oregon St. I believe it was. So yes they have been able to beat an FBS team.

Objective observer

Moreover, this article is about improving those facilities. So you should be applauding the athletic program for not only doing that but doing it with private funds.

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