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University of Missouri approves plan to expand football stadium
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri isn't waiting until it officially joins the Southeastern Conference on July 1 to make a big splash in the college football arms race.
University curators on Tuesday quickly and unanimously approved a request by athletic director Mike Alden to borrow $72 million through the sale of revenue bonds to add more than 6,000 seats to Memorial Stadium, which has a capacity of 71,004. Moments later, Alden announced a $30 million donation from the Kansas City Sports Trust -- the second largest private donation of any kind in school history -- for further football facilities upgrades.
"When we joined the SEC, we knew we had to step up to a new level," said David Bradley, chairman of the university governing board.
The expansion will add 5,200 bleacher seats on the stadium's east side and more than 1,000 premium seats, along with new restrooms, lounges and concession stands. Missouri also plans 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 to add more seating in the future.
Missouri still will 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.
The $30 million gift will allow Missouri to build a new indoor practice facility and add a weight room to its athletics training complex. The projects are part of a 10-year athletics master plan that calls for a total investment in Missouri sports of $200 million, with the balance of the needed money provided by other private donors, Alden said.
A 30-year debt financing plan will cover the expansion, but Missouri expects to more than recoup that investment through the sale of additional premium seats and luxury boxes. Alden said football season ticket sales and donations have shot up since the school announced its move from the Big 12 Conference in November.
"We will sell more tickets than we ever have in the history of the University of Missouri," Alden told a recent gathering of Tigers football boosters.
Football coach Gary Pinkel, a vocal advocate of increased spending on athletics since Missouri opted to head south, said the investment bodes well as he joins a league that has produced the last six BCS champions.
"I've often expressed that if you're not going to be committed to excellence, and to invest, then you should never go into this league," he said. "It's a great statement by our administration."
The financing plan also will allow Missouri to improve its tennis and golf facilities as well as its softball and baseball stadiums. Missouri ranks near the bottom of its new conference in terms of annual expenses on athletics, as well as athletics revenue and recruiting budgets.