Ground was broken Wednesday morning for a new athletic academic center on the University of Montana campus, highlighted the the announcement of a $1 million donation to the athletic department.

Speaking to a crowd of nearly a hundred spectators, including a good number of student athletes, Athletic Director Kent Haslam announced the $1 million gift.

"Today, I'm pleased to announce that the athletic department has secured a $1 million cash gift to primarily support athletic facility improvements," Haslam said. "This is a new gift and and one of the largest gifts we've ever received in school history at the athletic department. The donors wish to remain anonymous, and we will respect that wish until the time when their names will appear on the building."

State Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian said the center has one specific purpose, to provide a place where student athletes can study that is close to the Adams Center and Washington Grizzly Stadium.

"We are constructed a facility that is designed and intended to promote student academic success," Christian said. "Believe it or not, that really is the highest mission and most candidly the highest priority of the Montana Board of Regents and the University system. That said, we know that for student athletes, academic success leads to overall improved balance for the athletes for improved performance both on the field and on the court."

Grizzly sports information added that the building, a two-story structure whose upper floor will be dedicated to the academic pursuits of nearly 300 Griz student-athletes, will be constructed and equipped at a cost of $2.5 million, all of which came from private support.

Fifty-five donors stepped up to advance the academic center from vision to blueprint to Wednesday’s groundbreaking. Fundraising for the project was aided by a $400,000 pledge from the Grizzly Scholarship Association.

The ground level of the new facility, which will continue to be an entrance to the Adams Center and Dahlberg Arena, will provide additional office space for the Department of Athletics and an outdoor ticket office window.

During construction, part of Campus Drive in front of the Adams Center will be blocked off.