University of Missouri seeks football stadium expansion

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri has unveiled its long-promised plans to upgrade athletic facilities as it moves to the Southeastern Conference.

An athletics master plan released by the school Monday calls for adding at least 6,000 seats at Memorial Stadium, which currently seats 71,004. The expansion would consist of 5,200 bleacher seats on the stadium's east side and 800 to 900 premium seats, along with new restrooms, lounges and concession stands.

Missouri would rank ninth in stadium size among the 14 SEC schools even with the addition. Eight of those schools have stadiums that hold at least 80,000, with Bryant-Denny Stadium at Alabama and Tennessee's Neyland Stadium topping 100,000.

Missouri also wants to add more enclosed luxury suites on the stadium's west side and expand a concourse at the stadium's north entrance that would provide room for another possible seating increase in the future.

The school also is seeking to improve its tennis and golf facilities as well as its softball and baseball stadiums. The projects would cost $72 million in 30-year debt financing through revenue bonds, although a plan summary suggests Missouri would recoup its entire investment through the sale of additional premium seats and luxury boxes.

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden will present the proposal to university curators today with a vote expected Wednesday morning. He declined an interview request Monday through a school spokesman.

Immediately after the today's curators' session, Alden plans to announce what's described as a"major private gift" to Missouri athletics. He consistently has spoken of the need for donors to "step up" from the moment Missouri's move to the SEC from the Big 12 Conference was announced in November 2011.

Missouri ranks near the bottom of its new conference in terms of annual expenses on athletics, as well as athletics revenue and recruiting budgets.

The plan summary provided to curators suggests that the increased investment on athletics also is an SEC expectation.

"With the move to the Southeastern Conference, this planning effort evaluated all facilities and identified those requiring immediate attention to accommodate the expectations of the new conference home," the master plan reads.

The timing of the debt financing request could prove awkward for the seven curators, who are political appointees selected by the governor and approved my Missouri legislators.

Supporters of the University of Missouri Press, which is slated to shut down this week after administrators said they no longer can afford the publishing house's $400,000 annual subsidy, plan to protest the budget cut at the curators' meeting on the Columbia campus.

They have criticized the move by new Missouri system president Tim Wolfe and compared the relatively modest budget cut to the millions spent on football and men's basketball, although academic funds are separate from athletic budgets.

While the bulk of the proposed stadium expansion would be paid for through revenue bonds, the plan also calls for the use of $500,000 from a campus facilities reserve fund that covers utility infrastructure improvements.

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