Try 1 month for $5
Lady Jacket softball program now has a scenic view all its own
JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff When Yellowjacket Stadium, between Alterowitz Gym and the Rims, is finished it will have cost around $450,000 and, according to coach Jeff Aumend, "will be the nicest facility within a 14-hour radius."

Jeff Aumend walks out and feels the future under his feet.

The players, whose emotions are more immediate, make their way out along the same ground and feel comfortable.

This patch of land, more than two years in the making on Bjorgum Field - in between Alterowitz Gymnasium and the Rims - is now their home.

Yellowjacket Stadium, home field of the Montana State-Billings softball program.

"It's amazing," said Meghan O'Donnell, a junior shortstop/outfielder with the team. "This is something we can all our own."

After the scheduled opener was snowed out, the Yellowjackets played their first official games there on April 1-2 with a pair of Pacific West Conference doubleheaders against Brigham Young-Hawaii. MSU-B won three of four, its first-ever Pac West Conference wins for the second-year program.

"We were so excited," O'Donnell continued. "We were finally taking infield on our home field."

The Yellowjackets played their games at the Poly Vista complex in their inaugural season of 2001.

MSU-B will play another set of doubleheaders this Friday and Saturday against Colorado College and close out the season April 26-27 with doubleheaders both days against Oklahoma Panhandle State. The university will have an official opening of the facility on April 27.

"The players absolutely love it," said Aumend, the Yellowjackets' head coach. "They're just smiling ear-to-ear. Just knowing they have their own on-campus facility means so much."

Three plans for the proposed stadium were drawn up before Aumend's arrival in the fall of 2000.

MSU-B athletic director Gary Gray said there were three options: construct the softball stadium with no lighting, construct the softball stadium and light the softball space only or, construct the softball stadium and light the entire Bjorgum Field area (stadium, multiuse area and low ropes course).

The university selected the third option.

There was also discussion on where to place the stadium. Two designs by the hired architects had the facility at Bjorgum Field, while another had it on the College of Technology campus, where the MSU-B soccer field is located.

"I lobbied for it being against the Rims," Aumend said. "It's just a picturesque setting.

"I wanted an on-campus setting for our student body and the community."

Home plate now faces out toward the Rims, offering a spectacular, color-splashed view to fans and players.

MSU-B officials also divided the project into three phases.

Phase I was to have a playable facility by 2002, which has been accomplished. There is already dugouts, permanent bleachers, a backstop and netting to prevent balls from going out on 27th St. The fencing for the outfield is the same breakaway fencing used at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Phase II is to start adding the amenities: press box, lighting and final landscaping. Gray said the athletic department has already received the go-ahead to proceed into the second phase. He added that the school plans to purchase a concessions trailer to be used at both the softball and soccer facilities.

Phase III is to have the entire facility complete with lights for the entire Bjorgum Field area.

"Once the area is lighted, it can be used for the Big Sky State Games, Special Olympics, camps, clinics and possibly concerts," Aumend said. "It's just the beginning that a college softball team can play here.

"This is the nicest college facility within a 10-hour radius and when we're finished, it will be the nicest facility within a 14-hour radius."

Aumend added that he would like to see the stadium used for championship games of the Montana high school softball state softball tournaments.

According to Gray, the entire project, when completed, will cost in the range of $450,000. That includes such things as individual and corporate gifts, university funding from nonstate appropriated sources and trade-out services. In January, Cenex donated $100,000 toward the building of the stadium.

For Aumend, the stadium is a sense of accomplishment, having watched it being put together day-by-day from his office.

"It can be compared to building your first home," said the MSU-B head coach. "The foundation, the walls, the roof - once those things are in place, you move forward to living in it.

"All in all, when it's all done, you eventually have a pretty nice house."

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.