Local Landmarks: Celebrating 60 years of the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse

Soon students in cap and gown, with tassel and cord, will flock to the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse to receive their diplomas and shake hands with President Waded Cruzado. Family and friends fill the stands, and after a long ceremony, blue and gold balloons fall from the ceiling. It’s a time for celebrating each graduate’s history here at MSU.

The Brick Breeden Fieldhouse has history too, just like each graduate sitting in the arena May 7.

The fieldhouse was built by architect Oswald “Ozzie” Berg Jr., after the then Montana State College (MSC) President Roland Renne (the namesake of Renne Library and sixth president) dreamed of a building that could house indoor college football games. While, sadly, MSU football fans still have to watch games in the cold, the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, originally named the MSC Fieldhouse, was, at the time of its construction, the largest clear span wooden structure in the world. In other words, it was the largest domed structure in the western hemisphere without a center support.

The fieldhouse opened in 1956, and was named after John “Brick” Breeden, an MSU basketball star player and celebrated basketball coach, as well as a state senator from 1972 to 1974. The arena inside of the fieldhouse, where graduation takes place, is named the Worthington Arena, after Max Worthington, another star basketball player and coach, who also served as an MSU administrator.

Originally, the floor of the Brick Breeden was dirt, which allowed Little League games to be played indoors. The original basketball court was a raised, portable, wooden floor that was assembled in the center of the fieldhouse, along with wooden boardwalks for spectators from the entrance to the court and concession stand. Basketball players were required to wipe their feet before going onto the court, as their dressing rooms had dirt floors as well. It wasn’t until 1980 that the fieldhouse got its first floor — a hard tartan-type surface. That was also when folding bleachers were installed on the main level.

A large-scale renovation was ushered in during 1998, with $13.2 million used to modernize the arena. This was the first time that the arena was handicapped accessible with the construction of ramps and elevators. The building was also brought up to modern safety codes. Beyond that, a new main entrance was completed, along with administrative and coaches’ offices, locker rooms (with no dirt floors this time), improved concession stands and a Hall of Fame.

The Worthington Arena currently seats 7,250 people and hosts events ranging from sports events, like basketball, volleyball, track and field and rodeos, to concerts, speakers, plays and trade shows. It is also home to the annual Pow Wow.

During the summer the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse will be home to multiple events. To check out the roster, visit brickbreeden.com.