BOZEMAN — Despite clouds of uncertainty hanging over higher education from the coronavirus pandemic, Montana State University took an optimistic step Tuesday by celebrating the completion of its new $50 million freshman student dormitory, Hyalite Hall.
President Waded Cruzado and other officials, all wearing face masks and sitting at a distance, gathered outside the new six-story, 510-bed building on West College Avenue for speeches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
When planning began, “we could not imagine that we would be opening Hyalite Hall during one of the most complex periods in our lives,” Cruzado said.
“And yet the opening of this stunning facility during this difficult time is a triumph, and it is a note of hope about our future,” she said. “Hyalite Hall is a tangible symbol of MSU’s optimism, because we believe in the future and the power of the land-grant university to shape the future.”
Construction took two years. Cruzado said it came in on time and under budget.
The building’s exterior features glass, steel and putty-colored brick, a break from the Bozeman campus’s traditional red brick. The interior features colorful furniture and boldly painted walls.
Mike Vasquez, the new Associated Students of MSU president, recalled he felt “scared out of my mind” as a freshman from California, knowing no one, when he arrived at Yellowstone Hall, previously MSU’s newest dormitory.
Living in that dorm gave him the chance to make new friendships, have new experiences and even study, Vasquez said, while becoming a resident assistant gave him the confidence to run for president. Hyalite Hall will do the same for new generations of Bobcats, he said.
Asked what they wanted in a new dormitory, students said a key issue for them was making sure the building is sustainable as possible, Vasquez said.
Kath Williams, a longtime sustainability consultant, said the paperwork has been submitted to seek certification as a LEED gold building for Hyalite Hall. It’s difficult, she said, because the standards from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program keep being raised.
“We could not be prouder,” said Doug Jackson, president of the general contractor Jackson Contractor Group.
Darryl Curfman, who oversaw the project for MSU, called it a beautiful and magnificent building. One feature is a six-story “lantern wall” with images of the Hyalite Lake and waterfalls, he said.
Don Mathre, an MSU plant professor emeritus, has lived in a house across the street for 53 years. Mathre said he can no longer look out his window to see what the weather looks like over the Spanish Peaks because of the tall new building, but his cell phone has better weather forecasts anyway. He said he’ll now look to see how students interact with neighbors.
“We’ll be quiet neighbors,” promised Tom Stump, associate vice president of auxiliary services.
Hyalite Hall was built by selling bonds, and MSU plans to pay off the debt over many years using student dorm and dining hall fees. No taxpayer or student tuition funds went into the project.
“We’re expecting about 500 students in Hyalite,” MSU spokesman Michael Becker wrote in an email. Families are waiting to make final decisions about the fall semester, he added, “and we’ll have to see how many actually move in.”