MSU Mens Hoops v. N. Dakota (copy)

Montana State athletic director Leon Costello watches the Bobcats men’s basketball team play North Dakota on Nov. 27 at Worthington Arena.

Leon Costello wishes he could say Montana State raised $18 million comfortably on time.

The MSU athletics director admitted it was a push to get it done by this week. But he wanted to announce his department pulled it off during Montana State’s homecoming week, two years after MSU made the Athletics Facility Master Plan public during homecoming week in 2017.

But now MSU can begin construction on the Bobcat Athletics Complex, an addition planned for Bobcat Stadium’s north end, after meeting that record $18 million in private funds, which was announced Friday.

Costello, speaking to media for the first time since the announcement, said construction of the 40,000-square-foot facility will begin around the end of the calendar year. MSU will likely finish design and construction documents, take bids for contracts in January, award a contract by the end of that month and then break ground soon after.

Costello hopes athletes will be in their new spaces by June 30, 2021.

This is just the first of multiple phases in the Athletics Facility Master Plan laid out two years ago. But he’s not quite ready to publicize what Phase II exactly looks like.

“As far as Phase II,” Costello said, “I think we need to take a breath, let our donors take a breath and get excited about this.”

The $18 million for the Bobcat Athletic Complex is MSU’s largest athletics fundraising campaign ever. The two-story building will include football locker rooms, athletic training spaces, meeting rooms, rehabilitation spaces, equipment storage and coaches offices.

The football coaches office space in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse will turn into a 3,400-square-foot academic center. And the current football locker room will be used for other athletic purposes.

Costello said this extra space will give the athletes more freedom to train and study, therefore allowing them more time to focus on nutrition, study and rest.

The university received authority to spend up to $18 million in non-state funds for construction of the project, including gifts, donations and in-kind contributions. Up to $3 million will come from MSU by way of athletics revenues from sources like ticket sales, and Costello estimated most or all of that total will go toward Phase I unless more money is raised soon.

Costello stressed no public funds will be used. He emphasized all of these facilities upgrades are intended to benefit every sport. The next phase, he said, will include smaller projects for all athletics.

“When we have success, we can build on success and have momentum,” Costello said. “Getting the first (phase) done is always the hardest, getting people to believe in the vision and have confidence that the money that they’re giving is going to come to fruition.”

MSU athletics

Montana State raised $18 million for the Bobcat Athletic Complex.

Costello said MSU initially kept donations to those who had a history of donating to “get bigger chunks” early. But he wanted the community to support the project, so he opened contributing up to the public after about a year. The result was approximately 500 unique donors.

“I think everybody has realized we needed this,” Costello said. “They had been waiting for it. Now that it’s here, we need to make sure we get (the master plan) done and get it done right and move on and look at different ways we can positively impact our student-athletes in our programs.”

For all the renovations MSU has made to its buildings and infrastructure recently, Costello believed it was his department’s turn to benefit.

Costello said MSU wasn’t building to compete with other programs at MSU’s level, including a few in the Big Sky which are also building and renovating. But he did admit the facility is key to recruiting and retaining the best athletes and coaches possible.

Overall, Costello complimented MSU President Waded Cruzado for her support in the fundraising.

“She always refers to us as the front porch of the university,” he said. “Well I say we have to keep our front porch clean, and we have to do our job with initiative at the university.”

Costello added the second phase likely includes renovations to the east side of Bobcat Stadium as well as smaller projects. He still wants to research and consider what Phase II should include. MSU has a couple ideas, but he wants to take his time and ponder his department’s next immediate needs.

First, he wants the first phase finished.

“It’s a nice way to bookend the campaign,” Costello said. “But as I say, now the real work begins. Now we’ve got to get the building built.”

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.