- Jason Karp
Brick Breeden Fieldhouse – Montana State Bobcats
Photos courtesy of Dale Birdsley, Jessie Rice, Brad Lookhart, and Brady Griffith
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Brick Breeden Fieldhouse 1 Bobcat Circle Bozeman, MT 59717
Brick Breeden Fieldhouse website
Year Opened: 1956
The Brick Breeden Fieldhouse/Max Worthington Arena opened in 1956 and is the home court for the Montana State University men's and women's basketball teams. The versatile dome is also home to MSU indoor track and field and hosts the annual MSU spring rodeo along with concerts, trade shows, graduations, high school tournaments, and numerous other events.
The building is named after John "Brick" Breeden who was a member of Montana State's 1929 national champion basketball team known as the Golden Bobcats. Breeden was also a long time basketball coach and athletic director at the school. The arena inside is named after Max Worthington, also a member of the Golden Bobcats, as well as the football team. He served the school for many years as a coach, teacher, and administrator.
When it opened, the arena was a one of a kind structure, very ahead of its time. It was built at a time when Montana State was transitioning from a small land grant agricultural and engineering college into a major state university. The spacious building is good in a variety of different roles, but not ideal for one specific purpose. As with anything ahead of its time the building has certain quirks and limitations, but those have been smoothed over by renovations over the years. The most recent renovation completed in the summer of 2014, has attempted to make the arena more comfortable and intimate as a college basketball venue.
Food & Beverage 3
The concession stands behind each mezzanine provide typical ballpark fare, with nothing unique or extraordinary. Combo meals, including chips and a 32 oz soda (Pepsi products) feature a brat ($6.50), hot dog ($6), or nachos ($5). There seems to be a little more variety on offer at the concession stands on the south side of the arena, including chicken strips. So if you're not in a hurry, check each one out before making any decisions. I like to snack on a Bobcat cookie ($2) which is an oatmeal and M&M monster cookie.
The latest renovation brought in new chair back seats with cup holders to replace the bleachers on the lower level. Unfortunately, the 32 oz. drink that comes with every combo meal does not fit securely in said cup holders. Perhaps, MSU has to use up their inventory of wide based cups before they can order some in with a narrow base that will work with their new cup holders?
As with most college owned venues, beer is not available.
Anyone with any interest in architecture or engineering will appreciate Worthington Arena's exposed ceiling. Graceful glulam beams arch up and connect to a compression ring at the center of the dome beyond a system of catwalks, lights, and apparatus. Buildings of this size rarely if ever use wooden structural members these days, but in 1956 it was state-of-the-art. The whole building is truly an architectural marvel.
In the new configuration, the bleacher seating, which made up approximately half of the arena's capacity, has been replaced with chair back seats. The new lower level seating along both sidelines has armrests and cup holders. The bleachers on both baselines have been replaced with seats with no armrest or cup holders. The new seating gives the arena interior a more modern look.
Capacity for Bobcat basketball games has been reduced from 7,250 to 4,500 through the use of large heavy black curtains dropped from the ceiling over much of the upper level seating. These curtains can be easily raised or lowered depending the seating capacity needed. Also, a row of windows around the perimeter of the arena has been covered to block out any natural light so now day games have the same look and feel as night games.
A large four-sided video scoreboard hangs over the center of the court. It's become popular for fans to snap a selfie and text it to the video board. There's also the kiss cam, game stats, and other fun things posted on the video board from time to time to keep the fans interested.
New lighting and sound system were installed with the recent renovations. Both are tremendous improvements over what was in place before.
Worthington Arena has always had a comfortable, non-intimidating, laid back sort of vibe. It's not the most raucous atmosphere one could hope for, but does provide a comfortable place to get out of the house and take in game during Bozeman's chilly winters.
Bozeman is a classic university town. There's lots of interesting bars, restaurants, and shopping downtown on Main Street about a mile and a half from the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Colombo's Pizza and Pasta and the world famous Pickle Barrel sandwich shop are a short walk across campus on College Street. There is also a small and growing business district right across 11th Street from the Fieldhouse including Spectators Sports Bar and Grill - a popular Bobcat hangout, the Storm Castle Cafe (breakfast and lunch), and I-Ho's Korean Grill.
Bridger Brewing, a craft brewery that also serves gourmet pizzas, recently opened right across the street from the Brick. My favorite is the appropriately named Bobcat Brown Ale. If it's a night game, grab a brew and pizza before, Montana's brewery laws dictate that they stop serving after 8 PM.
Bozeman is a winter wonderland with world class skiing close by. Bridger Bowl, frequented by MSU students, is just 16 miles from Bozeman. Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin are a scenic 50 mile drive away. There are also groomed cross-country ski trails right in the city limits. Ice climbing, back country skiing, and ice fishing are just minutes away from campus up Hyalite Canyon.
Bobcat basketball is at a low ebb with a new coaching regime led by Brian Fish. But even in a season where wins have been incredibly rare, Bobcat fans turn out in respectable numbers that would fill the smaller Big Sky Conference venues to overflowing.
The excitement picks up after Christmas break when the students, cheerleaders, and especially the band are back in attendance for the game. The Bobcat pep band, cheerleaders, and the mascot Champ do a great job of keeping things lively, even when events on the court don't always give Bobcat fans something to cheer about.
As the team improves, the fan and student support should also improve and make the MSU home court more feared by opposing teams.
Bozeman has excellent airline access for a town of its size. The Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport is about 10 miles from campus and has daily direct flights from Salt Lake City, Denver, Seattle, and Minneapolis. Public transportation is limited, so if you're flying in it is best to rent a car, which will also allow you to explore the scenic and historic areas around Bozeman.
The Brick Breeden Fieldhouse is easy to find. The big dome is visible for miles around. The most direct route is South 11th Avenue via West Main Street. All parking is free, and usually plentiful with lots on the north and south sides of the arena. The north lot, adjacent to Shroyer Gym and the building fills up first, but there is more parking available across 11th Avenue nearer to the high rise dorms. The larger south entrance is adjacent to a large parking lots. The spaces near the arena are reserved for boosters, but the recently paved spaces beyond are a huge improvement.
There is a row of handicapped parking spaces near both the north and south entrances, but with basketball games attracting an older crowd these days, the spaces fill up fast so get there early if you need one.
There are plenty of restrooms in the facility that are kept clean and functional. The closest restrooms to the seating areas are underneath the upper level of permanent seating.
Return on Investment 4
An adult general admission ticket for a men's game is only $10 and parking is free, so Division I Bobcat basketball is a bargain. On select nights, MSU offers a popular $44 deal which gets a family of four tickets, hot dogs, drinks, and a program. Concessions are also reasonable for a college sporting event. If the team can start to string some wins together during this rebuilding process, the Brick should once again be the place to be in Bozeman.
A few more items that help make a trip to the Brick worthwhile:
The Bobcat pep band has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years and greatly enhances the entire experience of attending a Bobcat basketball game.
The Golden Bobcats: The Montana State College men's basketball team from 1927 through 1929 had a 72-4 record and the 1928-29 team was declared national champions by the Helms Foundation (no NCAA tourney back then). The team averaged an astounding 63 points per game in an era where there was a center jump after every made basket and most teams scored in the 20's. They were one of the first teams in the country to employ a fast break. The Golden Bobcats memory is preserved in naming the building after two of its players, a photo and display about the team in the corridor leading to the north entrance/exit, and a national championship banner hanging from the west end of Worthington Arena.
The architecture and history of "The Brick" lone make it a venue worth visiting. It was quite visionary to build such a building at a time when it could have easily seated every man, woman, and child living Bozeman with plenty of room left over.
It's hard to think about Bozeman and not imagine the iconic dome of the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. The building has had so many memorable moments, whether it be a Bobcat basketball game, national championship rodeo, high school state championship, or a four minute indoor mile, in over a half century of existence. If you're in Bozeman and looking for something to do, then check out what's happening at the Brick, because no doubt there's something going on. Whatever the event it's a fun and interesting place to visit.