Support Local Journalism


With nearly two years of construction wrapped up, Montana State’s sleek new $35 million dorm, Yellowstone Hall, is ready and waiting to welcome 400 incoming students to campus life.

Shiny new accommodations or not, campus housing officials say, the amenity-stocked building is designed to get students out and exploring, forging bonds with each other and getting to know Montana.

“We don’t want you in a room all the time,” said Tom Stump, the university’s auxiliary services director. “We’ve created a lot of collision space.”

The Y-shaped dorm features spacious lounges on each of its four floors, forming hubs for mingling among students living in the rooms spaced along its wings. Each wing is also home to activity lounges featuring the obligatory couches and big-screen TV’s, as well as a collection of study rooms with rolling chairs and walls coated in dry-erase paint.

On the first floor, the building includes ski lockers and a dedicated bike repair room. Outside, the university has erected a new, ADA-accessible climbing boulder and added 100 additional parking spaces.

While the lounges are plenty big, the Yellowstone’s two-student rooms themselves aren’t much larger than the well-worn quarters of the Hedges towers. On the plus side, though, Stump said, the new accommodations do feature taller ceilings intended to give them a spacious feel regardless.

Gone, too, are the days of students cobbling together DIY bed lofts from 2x4s in an effort to free up precious floor space for their various activities. Instead, the hall’s double rooms come outfitted with prefabricated metal frames to raise mattresses up over desks — something Stump described as a sustainability measure aimed at reducing the volume of lumber heading for dumpsters on move-out day.

In a practical sense, the dorm’s restrooms are designed without urinals, making it possible for ResLife staff to swap them between male and female use with a sign change as housing demand fluctuates year-to-year. A few rooms include separate Jack-and-Jill-style bathrooms shared between a pair of dorm rooms, accommodations Stump said are designed for transgender students or others with a particular need for privacy.

In addition to plenty of varnished pine trim — sourced from regional beetle-kill — the dorm’s decor includes wallpaper wraps featuring stylized topographic maps of forests and mountain ranges across the state.

One wing has a floor named after the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, its wall-sized map colored to represent boreal owl habitat. Another takes its name from the Gates of the Mountain Wilderness near Helena.

Sustainability has been a design priority, too. Facilities staff are aiming for a LEED gold certification for the building, Stump said, and it already has a silver designation wrapped up.

For example, he said, the dorm’s layout is designed to maximize southern exposure, making use of winter sunlight to push down heating costs. Its south side also features a “solar wall,” a dark panel intended to use solar energy to pre-heat hot water by a few degrees, shaving more off the university’s utility bill.

The hall is also designed to accommodate roof-mounted solar panels, Stump said, if or when the technology becomes cost-effective.

The building, designed by SMA architects of Helena and built by general contractor Langlas & Associates, is funded by student housing revenues rather than public funding, the university says.

MSU’s room and board rates now run about $4,500 a semester, or roughly $1,125 a month.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.


Eric Dietrich covers city government and health for the Chronicle.

Recommended for you