The term "student-athlete" will have more meaning to recruits and their parents with the completion of the University of Montana's new Athletic Academics Center, now entering its final design phase.

Prior to this new facility, student athletes were forced to study in a cramped, underground space, tucked in a basement corner right next to the football locker room, the weight room and the equipment room.

UM Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations Chuck Maes said on Monday, January 13, that the new academics center has been in the planning phase for the past few years.

"We looked at every location where we could possibly put it," Maes said. "It's going to be between Campus Recreation and the Hoyt Athletic Complex. Right now, it's a student entrance in between the two buildings. We'll continue to have a lobby there, but on the second floor will be the student academics center, which will have two offices for our academic advisers and tutors, and we'll have some private rooms for private study and some larger rooms for group study. Student athletes will be able to gather and study together, much like a library."

Maes said the center will begin construction this summer.

"Hopefully, we'll break ground in early summer, and it'll probably be anywhere from a 15 to 18-month project," Maes said. "The entire budget stands at about $3 million. About $2.5 million has been privately raised. Since the plan is to extend the Adams Center basement under the academic facility, the rest of the funding will come from various activities at the Adams Center."

UM Associate Athletic Director for Internal Operations Chuck Maes