Associated Press WriterCOLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Shedding secrecy, billionaires Nancy and Bill Laurie acknowledged Tuesday that they are the anonymous donors of $25 million to build a new University of Missouri basketball arena.
Nancy Laurie is an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune and Bill Laurie owns the St. Louis Blues hockey team.
The Lauries, who live in Columbia, had previously been named as the donors as early as last summer by The Associated Press and other news outlets. But top university officials had refused to confirm the reports, even amid statehouse and campus criticism about letting anonymous parties effectively set school priorities.
The Lauries were introduced as the donors during a reception Tuesday at the Columbia campus alumni center.
For the Lauries, it was the second offer of a multimillion-dollar gift to build a new home for the Tigers. The first was $10 million, publicly offered five years ago but withdrawn after a year because the Lauries weren't satisfied with school progress on raising other money for the arena.
This time the money was offered with no name attached, but with a number of conditions, including decision-making authority by the donor on major project changes.
With the promise of $25 million toward the projected $75 million arena cost, the Legislature and Gov. Bob Holden this year approved allowing bonds to be sold to raise millions more.
The state has issued $35 million in bonds toward arena construction, but Holden -- grappling with a state revenue shortfall -- has pledged that no state funds would be appropriated to repay the bonds before 2005.
University officials say they will raise the balance from private donations, and that state funding would be used last.
The arena would be built south of the Hearnes Center, where the Tigers have played basketball in Columbia since the early 1970s.
Nancy Laurie is the daughter of the late Bud Walton, who with brother Sam Walton built Wal-Mart into a retailing giant and accumulated a family fortune running into the billions of dollars. In addition to his ownership of the Blues, Laurie has been shopping for a professional basketball team for St. Louis.
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