Public invited to Missoula College grand opening celebration on Friday | Local

The public is invited to the grand opening celebration of the new Missoula College at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22, with a tour of the new 115,000-square-foot building.

Montana’s 63rd state Legislature appropriated $29 million of taxpayer dollars to help fund the new two-year college building in 2013. On Friday, the Payne family of Missoula, Blackfoot Communications and other key private donors also will be recognized.

Speakers include Gov. Steve Bullock, University of Montana President Sheila Stearns, Missoula College Dean Shannon O’Brien and Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian. Students from the college’s award-winning culinary arts program will provide treats after the formal program.

The family of Salish Indian elder Louis Adams will provide a Native American blessing and honor song. Adams died in 2016, but he blessed the groundbreaking of the new building in August 2014.

“This building will ensure we are nimble and quick to respond to Montana’s workforce needs,” O’Brien said. “This beautiful new structure is an investment in the economy and the future prosperity of Montana.”

Located at 1205 E. Broadway, across the Clark Fork River from the central UM campus, the building has views of the river, Mount Sentinel and Washington-Grizzly Stadium. O’Brien said UM officials have nicknamed the area the “river campus.”

Missoula College is UM’s two-year educational unit that provides transfer, occupational and technical education in 35 program areas across five academic departments. Areas of study include health care, business, applied computing, electronics and energy, and industrial technologies.

The new building has three culinary arts kitchens, a cybersecurity center with two labs, a math learning center, a cadaver lab and an expanded library.

Missoula College used to be called the College of Technology, and originally was opened as a vocational center in 1967. It became an academic unit of the University of Montana in 1994. Enrollment swelled to more than 2,200 in the past decade and classes had to be held in overflow units in outlying trailers, so in 2013 the Legislature funded the new structure.