Champions Center construction

Construction on the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center looms over the southwest corner of Montana's football stadium as the Griz opened spring practices Monday.

From turf level, Bob Stitt looked up to the southwest corner of Washington-Grizzly Stadium. From just beyond the concourse a chorus of hammering, welding and other machinery drifted down as the day's soundtrack.

"They can be as loud as they want," said Stitt, the Grizzlies' third-year head coach, while wearing a big smile.

Montana opened spring practices Monday next door to a construction zone as Washington-Grizzly Stadium's latest addition starts to take shape. The bones of the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center, a monstrous 46,000-square-foot complex of locker rooms, weight training facilities and meeting areas, are now in place with the rest of it expected to be completed by this fall.

"We've been recruiting on that facility since our coaches have been playing so they're excited to finally get in it," Stitt quipped before turning his attention back to the field.

Montana's helmets-only practice Monday is the first of 15 organized team activities over the next five weeks that will culminate in the annual Grizzly Spring Game on April 22 in Butte.

But there's a lot of work to do before then. The Griz meet twice this week -- Monday and Wednesday -- as they get re-acclimated after almost four months off from the field.

"Working out together is fun, but there's nothing like being out on the field together again," senior center Cooper Sprunk said. "Not only does it start our spring, but it starts our 2017 season."

The Griz are happy to be on to 2017 after the way 2016 ended. Montana missed the playoffs with a final-day loss to Montana State that brought their season to a close with a 6-5 record.

The players have had a hard time removing that memory from their minds in the offseason.

"I think I can speak for the senior class that we're real excited to be back out, because obviously it's our last go-around," said senior defensive end Tucker Schye, a Malta native and the latest wearer of Montana's No. 37 legacy jersey. "We don't want to have a season like we did last year, and it all starts here."

UM's spring break will interrupt practices next week with the Griz returning to the field Monday, March 27.

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