Bozeman High’s new stadium getting back in the game

21 September 2018

Building a new football stadium at Bozeman High is getting back on track, after this summer’s setback when bids came in $2.4 million over the original $7.5 million budget.

Bad timing was blamed for June’s high bids, especially those from earthwork contractors, some of which were $1 million over expectations, because many had already booked busy summer work schedules.

So the School Board rejected the old bids and sought new ones.

This time the school district received better proposals from three earthwork contractors. The School Board voted last week to pre-select Central Excavation and to contract with the stadium project’s general contractor, Jackson Contractors Inc., for the first phase of the stadium site work, to cost up to $375,000.

Construction bids for actually building the stadium were opened Tuesday, with bids submitted by about 40 subcontractors, from painting and plumbing to masonry and mechanical work, said Steve Johnson, deputy superintendent for operations. Johnson and Todd Swinehart, facilities director, said Wednesday the bids are still being analyzed to make sure everything is within budget.

Assuming the bids are OK, they plan to bring recommendations to the School Board at a special Friday noon meeting on Sept. 28, to award contracts to build the new Van Winkle Stadium.

If all goes as planned, work could start the following Monday, Oct. 1. The contractor wants to get as much done as possible before the snow flies, Johnson said.

To bring the stadium within the $7.5 million budget, construction of its north-end building was made an alternate — that could be added back into the project if there’s enough money.

Putting that on hold saves an estimated $1.6 million, Johnson said. The north building would house locker rooms for visiting teams, and concessions and bathrooms that could be used for soccer and softball games as well as football.

“We’d like to get it done now rather than wait. It would be cheaper now,” Johnson said. That would be a decision for the School Board trustees.

The additional $1.6 million would have to come out of the project’s contingency funds — not out of construction budgets for the second high school or the renovation of Bozeman High, Johnson said.

Officials are also looking for ways to move ahead other parts of the Bozeman High project, Johnson said. One possibility is moving up from 2020 to 2019 improving the big parking lot facing Main Street and the oval drive off of Main Street.

“Everything we can do early is going to let us save money,” Johnson said, because inflation adds 3 to 4 percent to construction costs each year.

To deal with traffic circulation, parent drop-off and parking issues arising from the new stadium project, planners have already moved up the schedule for some traffic circulation and parking lot work that was going to take place later and added those to the stadium project.

The first phase of the stadium project calls for demolishing a house on Durston Road, owned by the school district, to make room for new softball fields. The current softball fields have to be moved to make way for enlarging the small parking lot at the back of the high school’s North Classroom building.

The new stadium will be built between that parking lot and the larger student parking lot along North 15th Avenue.

The new stadium is being paid for out of the $125 million bond issue passed last year by voters to build Bozeman’s second high school and modernize the original Bozeman High. Both schools will share the football stadium.

Bids are expected to be sought in early 2019 for the second phase of site work, including building a roundabout at North 15th Avenue and Beall Street, widening and improving Ruth Thibeault Drive to make it a new parent drop-off route, and demolishing the old stadium and its big lights.

The new artificial-turf stadium is planned to open in fall 2019 — one year before the second high school opens.

Johnson said he’s cautiously optimistic that the stadium will be finished either before school starts next fall or early fall.

Swinehart said so far construction of the second high school is three weeks ahead of schedule, and Johnson said it’s within budget.