Montana State University officials were bursting with optimism about the future of the Bozeman campus at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for a $50 million residence hall.

This will be MSU’s 10th residence hall and the third new dormitory that the growing Bozeman campus has constructed in the last eight years. It will expand MSU’s on-campus housing supply by 510 beds.

To celebrate the start of construction, about 100 MSU staff, students, builders and professors gathered on the construction site, which is the former Antelope parking lot, on West College Street, just west of the Wally Byam Park and South 11th Avenue.

The new dormitory is expected to open in the fall of 2020. Construction will be paid for from students’ room and board fees. No state taxpayer money will go into paying off the 30-year bonds.

Tom Stump, associate vice president of auxiliary services, told the crowd that with this new hall, MSU is “building a solid foundation” that will set the whole university on a successful path for its next 125 years, as it strives to do things that were “previously unthinkable and unimaginable.”

“It’s ‘Infinity and beyond!’” Stump said, stealing a line from the movie “Toy Story.” “Today it’s ‘Bobcats and beyond!’”

MSU’s enrollment has grown steadily for the past 11 years and it’s expected to set a new record this fall with an estimated 240 more students. Stump said housing on campus is tight and he hopes the new dorm will make it possible to offer more single rooms, and free up space so when roommates clash or there’s an emergency, it’s easier to find rooms to put students.

About 30 percent of MSU’s 16,700 students live on campus.

To replace the parking lost by building the new dorm on the Antelope parking lot, MSU has paved a new parking lot just west of the old one, with 150 more spaces.

Cruzado said when she first arrived in 2010, she noticed that dorm residents were using the same furniture their grandparents had. So Hapner and Langford halls were renovated. In 2013 MSU built the $8 million, 72-bed Gallatin Hall, and in 2016 it opened the $35 million, 400-bed Yellowstone Hall.

The new, yet unnamed dormitory will be bigger, six stories high, faced with a blond-colored brick. Stump said they wanted to give it a distinctive look from the red terracotta brick that predominates in other campus buildings.

The building is designed like a crooked H, with glassed walkways linking two parallel buildings. SMA Architects designed wider hallways, walkways and stairways to create lots of “collision” spaces where students can meet informally, Stump said. The builder is Jackson Contracting Group.

Cruzado noted with pride that many of the professional architects and builders on the project are MSU alumni.

New dorms and dining halls are important, Cruzado said, because they help students to succeed and thus help build a better state. They’re also helping, she said, to “make Montana State the university of choice for the best students in Montana.”

Research has shown that a sense of belonging is one of the most important factors in whether students drop out of college or stay to graduate, said Jeff Bondi, chief housing officer. The new dorm will have great views of the mountains, he said. “It’s bright and it’s open and it will feel like home.”

Anne Lynam, an MSU senior and president of the Residence Hall Association, said students’ ideas were taken seriously by planners. Lizzy Thompson, Associated Students of MSU vice president, said residence halls are important places, where students make friendships and find a comfortable space to decompress.

Brock Tessman, deputy commissioner of higher education and former Honors College dean at the University of Montana, said MSU “is constructing a campus very much worthy of its gorgeous surroundings.”

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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