Tuesday's record rainfall was hardly a single-day anomaly in Missoula this spring. Total precipitation is more than 3 inches ahead of the norm in 2017 -- up to nearly 10 inches already -- as frigid and snowy winter conditions gave way to warmer but equally wet spring weather.

That made for slow going on construction projects around the Garden City, including the $14 million Washington-Grizzly Champions Center at the University of Montana. The Champions Center, which began construction more than a year ago, is close to on schedule though for a targeted September completion date.

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Washington-Grizzly Champions Center

The 46,000-square-foot Washington-Grizzly Champions Center is expected to be completed by fall 2017.

But the facility won't be dedicated until the Grizzlies' football homecoming game a month after that, giving Missoula-based Jackson Construction crews a bit of a buffer to close out the project.

"It's a blessing that homecoming is a little later this year because of the wet and cold winter," said Kent Haslam, Montana's athletic director.

The Griz host North Dakota for homecoming on Oct. 14, their latest celebratory homecoming weekend in 11 years. The Griz beat Northern Arizona for homecoming on Oct. 14, 2006; last year's game took place on Oct. 1 when UM topped Southern Utah.

The Montana University System Board of Regents gave UM the OK to move forward with its athletics facility upgrade in Nov. 2014. Excavation for the 46,000-square-foot building didn't begin until summer 2016 once all the privately raised funds were in place.

It was earlier this spring and winter that the building began to take shape behind the southwest corner of Washington-Grizzly Stadium, its flat-roof design allowing for further seating expansion of the football stadium someday. The metal skeleton rose from the ground before workers closed it in with outer sheathing, which is all in place at this point.

With about three months until the expected completion date, workers are moving inside to install plumbing and electric systems while others have begun the final touches on the outside appearance. Windows are being placed this week while brown stonework is applied over the yellow sheathing.

Though the Champions Center appears far from student-athlete ready, once work moves inside the building entirely the process will speed along with haste. The internal finishings are minor compared to those on the structure's outside, said Chuck Maes, Montana's assistant AD in charge of internal operations and facility management.

That's because of how it was structured, Maes continued, with walls of concrete rather than drywall like an office building.

"We built it mainly out of (concrete cinder blocks) because we want it to be bulletproof," Maes said. "We don't want to do something where if you run into the wall, you put a hole in it. You want something that can take some abuse because it is going to be a really busy place (full of athletes)."

Montana has contracted with superGraphics, a Seattle-based company, for the interior design of the facility. That includes logo and color scheme work, the final touches that will be completed this fall.

When finished, the Champions Center will house locker rooms for the university's football program and expansive meeting spaces for all of UM's 15 sports programs. Also for use by all student-athletes will be the two-level weight room on the building's southeast side, a space roughly double the size of Montana's current and antiquated 7,000-square-foot athletics weight area.

The completed Champions Center will be the jewel of the UM athletic department and among the most impressive facilities in the Big Sky Conference. It will also serve as a major recruiting tool for athletes of all sports -- and already has for the football team. Coaches have been pitching prospective players long graduated on the school's future facility upgrades.

Now Montana is in the final days of the project that's nearly a decade in the making.

As long as the weather cooperates. 

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