The worldwide leader in sports has officially hit the Treasure State.
ESPN Montana, a recently created Montana branch of the large sports-programming network, is in its early stages of operation. ESPNMontana.com and ESPN Radio on 97.5 FM in Missoula have launched within the last two weeks.
ESPN Montana will provide a unique local focus and coverage on high school sports, which are sometimes overlooked by larger ESPN markets that focus on professional teams and major colleges.
Tucker Sargent is the project manager for ESPN Montana and an employee of the Montana Radio Company.
Sargent said that this type of ESPN that focuses on high school sports as well as college and minor league baseball teams has never been done before.
“High school (sports) have been pretty much completely ignored everywhere in the country,” said Sargent. “Most other places with an ESPN station are in major markets that have professional and college teams that dominate the scene.
“And while we still think that the professional teams need to be talked about, the high school sports matter quite a bit and need to get reported on as well.”
The initial inspiration to begin the ESPN Montana project came from sports enthusiasts within the Montana Radio Company looking to improve sports coverage in the state.
The Montana Radio Company then secured the contract that Cherry Creek Radio — the station that broadcasted the previous AM signal — had with ESPN.
MRC talked with ESPN and pitched its ideas for creating a Montana-based branch that would provide locals with more extensive high school sports coverage, as well as coverage of minor league baseball teams such as the Helena Brewers and the Missoula Osprey.
Sargent said that Montana is a very sports-hungry market that was underserved by only having an AM radio station with no website.
Three new ESPN-affiliated FM radio channels are in place for Montana, as well as an ESPN website designed to give Montanans more in-depth coverage of teams across the state.
The radio channels replace an older and weaker AM signal that was associated with ESPN but had no website and provided little coverage of local area sports.
Plans for the new radio channels include a variety of different sports talk shows where listeners will be able to call in and provide their feedback on local sports news.
Ben Catley, voice of the Missoula Osprey, hosts a morning sports cast which rounds up sports stories and scores from around the state. His broadcast airs Monday through Friday on ESPN Montana radio.
Other shows for the channels are still being developed.
The radio channels are 94.9 FM for Helena, 99.9 FM for Great Falls and 97.5 FM for Missoula.
As for the website, much still remains to be done.
Sargent said that the website will hopefully become the “main sports hub for people in Montana.”
He also said the website will feature daily updates on high school and college sports, schedules and breaking sports news.
Advertising and getting recognized by the community is the focus now at ESPN Montana.
Sargent said that already the community has shown strong support for the project.
“A lot of people grew up in these towns and still want to see what’s going on,” Sargent said. “There’s a lot of rivalries and great stories that began here and they need to get covered.”
Read more at the Montana Kaimin where this story was originally published.