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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Bobcat Stadium – Montana State Bobcats

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Bobcat Stadium 1 Bobcat Circle Bozeman, MT 59717

Year Opened: 1973

Capacity: 20,767


The Gold Rush is Alive and Well in Bozeman

Montana State University was founded in 1893 and is the largest research institution in the state of Montana. It has a student body of more than 17,000 students. Its’ campus is in the southwestern section of Bozeman, Montana. The school and the town of Bozeman have an excellent town and gown relationship, earning them the distinction of being named as one of the Top 10 College Towns in the West by Sunset magazine.

The Montana State football program is known as the Bobcats and the school has had a football team since 1897. The Bobcats play in the Big Sky Conference at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision level or FCS. In the 125 years of football at the school, the team has won three National Championships (1956,1976, and 1984) The team finished the 2021 season as the runners-up in the FCS. The Bobcats have also won 20 conference championships (15 in the Big Sky Conference and 5 during their time in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) Montana State University is the only football program in the country to win National Championships at three different levels (NAIA, NCAA Division II, and the FCS).

The home field for MSU games is Bobcat Stadium. It was built in 1973 and was known as Reno T. Sales Stadium. The school undertook a huge $12 million renovation of the stadium in 1998 and then changed the name of the facility to Bobcat Stadium. The 1998 renovations included closing in one end of the stadium to increase seating capacity, the addition of a state-of-the-art video board, the addition of 38 sky suites, and the installation of lights for the stadium, which allowed the school to schedule more night games.

Food & Beverage 4

Bobcat Stadium has a wide selection of food items available at its ten concessions areas. The stands are equally distributed throughout the stadium, so you should not experience a long wait for your food.

The food booths include the East and West Concession Stands, which offer hot dogs, beer brats, popcorn, peanuts, candy, cowpie cookies, and wild flour pizzas. The Catshack stand offers chicken tenders, burgers, hot dogs, brats, and nachos. Southside Smokehouse offers up beef brisket sandwiches, hot dogs, and turkey legs. Korn Dancing offers Kettle Korn.

The Fork in the Road Food Truck is also on-site and offers Montana Buffalo Burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken strips, and waffle fries.

All stands sell Pepsi brand sodas. Stadium Expresso offers a wide variety of cold and hot drinks. You may have noticed that up to now we have not mentioned beer. Until a change in policy before the 2021 season, beer was not sold in Bobcat Stadium. This resulted in people using the stadium’s very liberal in/out policy if you have your hand stamped to imbibe back at their tailgate. There was a notable drop in how full the stands were as the games entered the third quarter. The powers at be figured this would negatively affect the team’s home-field advantage. Their solution was to allow beer sales within the confines of a beer garden in the northwest section of the stadium. Beer must be purchased and consumed within the beer garden. No alcoholic beverages are allowed to go back to your seat with you. The results of this new policy have been very positive. Fans can enjoy a beer and the stands are no longer empty after halftime.

Atmosphere 5

It is almost impossible to not have a good time at an MSU Bobcat home game. Even if the game is a blowout, you are treated to the gorgeous mountain scenery that surrounds the stadium. Before you even entered the stadium, you’ve been welcomed by a friendly set of Bobcats fans to join their tailgate. You’ve also been able to take part in the Bobcat Prowl, as the team, the cheerleaders, and the Spirit of the West Marching Band make their way to Bobcat Stadium.

There are several great traditions attached to Montana State football. Before the games, it is considered good luck to visit “Spirit,” the bobcat sculpture found on the Alumni Plaza on campus. Two traditions linked to the Homecoming game are the Party at the Pit, which is a bonfire, and the annual climb up Mt Baldy to visit the “M” that adorns the top of the mountain. The “M” is lit up for the rest of Homecoming Week.

Once inside, you have time to pick up Bobcat merchandise at the school bookstore’s booth and you’ve picked up some more food at one of the many concessions stands that offer regional specialties to the fans. Now that you’ve settled into your seat, you’ll have to get back up as the players enter the field through a large Bobcat head at the end of the field and the band strikes up the fight song.

Once the game starts, you’ll enjoy the high-scoring offense that the Bobcats play. During breaks in the action, the band will either crank up with another tune or you’ll be entertained by Champ the Bobcat, the team’s energetic mascot.

If you’ve been to an afternoon game, you’ll have time to enjoy the many restaurants and breweries in the Brewery District in downtown Bozeman.

Neighborhood 4

Bozeman, MT serves as the home of Montana State University and the two entities are virtually inseparable. The city has a population of 53,000 and is in the Gallatin Valley amidst the Bridger Mountain Range. This location has earned it the reputation as a top city to visit for outdoor sports The Bridger Bowl and Big Sky skiing facilities are just a short distance from downtown Bozeman and the area’s rivers and streams are legendary for great fly fishing. Bozeman is also known as the Gateway to Yellowstone as it is the closest major city near the National Park.

The downtown area offers a number of great cultural experiences for visitors. The Museum of the Rockies has one of the most extensive sets of dinosaur fossils outside of the Smithsonian Institute. The life of the Great Plains Indians is the subject of another special exhibit. The Ellen Theatre is another cultural icon for the city. The 1919 – era facility offers plays, concerts, and other programs throughout the year inside its ornate theatre.

Bozeman has a lively nightlife scene and its own Brewery Historic District. There are five breweries located in this district.

Fans 4

Bobcat fans are fanatically loyal to their team. When the team played in the FCS Championship Game, a huge number of MSU fans made the long drive to Frisco, Texas to support their team. The fans from Bozeman are also a hardy bunch, as the late-season games can see temperatures in the teens with snow and ice. The fans will be there in layers to cheer the Bobcats on to victory. The stadium capacity is 17,777, but for big games, MSU sells SRO tickets and can swell the stadium capacity to 21,527.

One section of the stadium stands for the whole game and does everything it can to disrupt the visiting team’s communications. This is the student section from MSU. They sit behind the goal line at the enclosed south end of the stadium. The noise they make is amplified by the design of the enclosed stands and it can be deafening.

There are two games each year that Montana State fans look forward to when all-gold uniforms only for two very special games, with the first being the first home game of the season. This is known as the Gold Rush game. The Bobcats also break out their gold uniforms for the rivalry game against the hated University of Montana Grizzlies. The game even has two nicknames…. The Brawl of the Wild or the “Cat-Griz Game” The winner of the game takes home the Great Divide Trophy and bragging rights for the next year. The fans dress accordingly, and Bobcat Stadium is awash with gold both on the field and in the stands. The second game comes only every other year to Bobcat Stadium.

Access 4

When we talk about the accessibility of going to games at Bobcat Stadium, we first need to get to Bozeman. It looks very isolated when you look at a map. Fortunately, the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) offers flights to and from 15 cities on Delta, United, Southwest, American, Allegiant, Jet Blue, and Sun Country airlines.

Bozeman is a small city, so it is easy to navigate.

Parking for Bobcat’s games is easy to come by, and in most cases is free. There are several lots that encircle Bobcat Stadium, but they are reserved for season ticket holders and major donors to the university. The remaining lots and parking decks throughout the campus are available for football fans to use free of charge.

Once at Bobcat Stadium, there are 15 gates available for entry for the fans. The gates open 90 minutes prior to kickoff, which allows for plenty of time for fans to get to their seats. The concourses are wide and easy to navigate as well.

Return on Investment 3

Success comes at a price, and with the Bobcats finishing near the top of the FCS polls on a regular basis, be prepared to pay a steep price to enjoy a football weekend in Bozeman. Ticket prices vary by the location in the stadium and the importance of the game The prices for tickets on the sides of the field range from $45-$75 and seats in the end zone run $25-$75. The concession stand prices are typical of what you would find at any college stadium on a Saturday afternoon in the fall.

The real budget breaker is the cost of lodging in the Bozeman area. There are plenty of hotel/motel options in town, but none of them are going to be big, convention-sized facilities. Most of the hotels charge their highest rates of the year for the 5-6 home football dates for Bobcat football. We were unable to find any hotels/motels in town that were charging less than $300 a night for even a budget level of accommodations. Many of these hotels/motels also charge for a 2-night minimum stay on football weekends. Unfortunately, it is a supply and demand issue to find a room on football weekends. There is a good reason you see so many RVs and campers parked outside Bobcat Stadium on football Saturdays.

Extras 4

The largest gathering of the Northern Plains Indian tribes is held each year at Montana State University. The American Indian Council Powwow is a 3-day long festival where members salute their culture through dance and art while sharing their heritage with younger members of the tribes.

Montana State University is celebrating the 125 years of college football at the school with special events scheduled throughout the 2022 football season.

Montana State loves to play schools from outside of the Big Sky Conference for its two independently scheduled games. This is because Bobcat Stadium’s elevation is 5,000 feet above sea level. By the second half, the visitors are almost gasping for air.

Montana State University has had many talented players and coaches over the years. These include Jan Stenerud, a kicker who is in the NFL Hall of Fame, and Sonny Holland, who both played for the Bobcats and went on to be their most successful coach. Another familiar name is Dennis Erickson, who both played for the Bobcats and then became their coach years later. Erickson went on to coach at the University of Miami and six other schools, in addition to coaching both the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. The Bobcats have sent twenty-two players on to play in the NFL.

Final Thoughts

Montana State University is always in the hunt for both the Big Sky Conference championship and a spot in the FCS playoffs. Bobcat Stadium is a great place to be on football Saturdays in Bozeman. It offers a beautiful setting; seats close to the action and a very loud and energetic fanbase. The annual Gold Rush games are especially difficult for visiting teams to come out with a victory, as both the MSU team and their fans are clad from head to toe in gold outfits.

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