When Leon Costello unveiled Montana State’s 20-year master plan for athletic facilities, he was unsure of when construction would begin.

At the time, in late September 2017, the Bobcats’ athletic director said it depended on how quick fundraising could be completed.

Twenty-one months later, Costello is confident when that will happen.

“Hopefully the goal is to be able to announce it in less than two years (from when the plan was released),” Costello told the Chronicle. “We don’t want to go all the way to Homecoming (Oct. 12) before we announce that we’ve reached our fundraising goal.”

MSU announced earlier this week that more than $16.5 million has been raised for the first phase and $1.5 million more is needed before construction can start.

Phase one includes building the football-centric Bobcat Athletic Complex, located near the north end zone of Bobcat Stadium, and the Academic Excellence Center to be located inside Brick Breeden Fieldhouse where the football team currently occupies.

“Instead of us going out with two separate campaigns for those two things, we know football is going to vacate their offices and go into the new complex,” Costello said. “Well that leaves an open space. Being able to backfill that right away in the same campaign makes total sense.”

The Bobcat Athletic Complex will feature an equipment room, weight room, locker room and athletic training space on the first floor while the second floor will feature coaches offices and meeting rooms.

Additional seating in the north end zone of Bobcat Stadium won’t be added until later phases.

The Academic Excellence Center is slated to include space for individual tutoring, individual study, group study rooms, computer stations and storage for books.

The price tag for the first phase was originally $16 million but increased due to a planning tweak that added square footage to the project. Fundraising more at the start will ultimately cost less than trying to add extra space later on, Costello said.

Since Costello was hired at MSU, the Bobcats’ football team went from four wins in 2016 to five in 2017 to eight in 2018, including a first-round playoff victory. Each regular season ended with a win over rival Montana.

“You can parallel what’s happened with our football program and the steady growth as you’ve seen with the football program,” Costello said. “We’ve needed something to be able to expand in order to capture some of that momentum that is being built within that program. I think it’s just been a steady climb with the football program. As they’ve had success, we’ve had success being able to fundraise.”

During a press conference in front of a room full of donors on signing day in February, head football coach Jeff Choate discussed the facilities project saying, “We’ve got to have the shovel in the dirt by early this summer.”

Though that didn’t happen, the athletic department’s goal is near.

“The only thing that’s holding this place back from being exceptional right now,” Choate said in February, “is that one big piece of us having a shiny new car to show these kids when they come here.”

MSU plans to launch a campaign next week that encourages more people to donate, Costello said. Up to this point, about 320 individual donations have been collected as the focus was mostly on gathering larger contributions.

Now in its final stages, Costello plans on expanding the project.

“It’s now time to take all donations, and we want everybody that wants to be a part of it (to) have an opportunity to be part of it,” Costello said. “We know there are people out there that want to give to it, and this will hopefully provide an easy way for them to be part of completing this project.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

Paul Schwedelson is a sports writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.