Friday night will be one to remember for the Madison School District 321 community. It's the opening night of the district's new event center.

The celebration begins at 5:30 p.m. with free hot dogs and chips - courtesy of Idaho Central Credit Union.

"It's going to be the tailgate part of tailgate parties," said Jessica Goudy, Madison School District communication director.

The celebration will also have "free swag everywhere" like T-shirts and sunglasses, face painting, and other activities leading up to the game. At 6:45 p.m. Dr. Geoffrey Thomas, the superintendent of the district, will lead a short program before the 7 p.m. kickoff for the football game. Goudy said to remember to wear red so there is a sea of red in the stands.

New Madison High School football fieldThe Madison Bobcats will play the Lake City (Coeur d'Alene) Timberwolves in the inaugural game in the new stadium. The athletes have yet to test out the new field. But when they step onto the turf, they'll find state-of-the-art everything.

"We wanted an event stadium that could be used by multiple groups, not just soccer, football, but also for concerts, competitions," Thomas said. "We wanted this to have a real homey feel where people could take pride in the facility."

The field is artificial turf, "but not your grandfather's artificial turf," Thomas said. The underlying concrete is crowned. The builders used lasers to measure a one to two-inch crown so water will drain off the field, Thomas said. On top of that is an "e-layer," a blue, cushioned layer. Then there's the turf that is topped with sand and rubberized pellets, all to help reduce injuries.

"Every time I walk out here I feel like I should be suiting up and somebody throwing me a pass or something," Thomas said.

Dr. Geoffrey Thomas makes the touchdown sign on the Madison High School football field.
The field has a life expectancy of about 15 years, which receives treatments at the beginning of each year.

The stadium includes 4,500 home seats and 1,500 visitor seats. There are 100 folding seats the district is selling season tickets to. There's also a giant scoreboard. ICCU donated more than $100,000 for the scoreboard.

Underneath the stadium is a large storage area that includes team rooms with their own bathrooms and a referee's room and an 80-yard corridor where students can exercise.

This is all made possible as part of a $27 million bond passed by more than 80% of voters in 2017. The bond also includes an adjacent field and track, a new gymnasium at the high school, 12 new classrooms at the high school - including a robotics lab, four new classrooms at Burton and Kennedy Elementary schools, a new gymnasium at Lincoln Elementary, and a new air conditioning system at Madison Middle School.

Front of the Madison High School stadium
"The idea behind it is community pride, to reflect the high standard and quality construction that represents Madison School District and the greater Rexburg community," Thomas said.

Thomas said the event center is built to last for decades to come. He said the students are eager to start using it. When people see it on Friday, he hopes they feel the community pride in the new facilities.

"I hope they walk away with that sense of belonging, that sense of community, that sense of pride - pride in a good sense - that when you build something right, when you build something to last, and that's an excellent facility, that's the kind of pride I'm talking about," Thomas said.