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KC group gives $30 million to Mizzou for athletic upgrades

By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star

With the University of Missouri a few days away from joining the Southeastern Conference, the school announced its intention to “step up” to the challenge.

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden announced Tuesday a sweeping $200 million master plan to improve the school’s athletic facilities. The Tigers become an official SEC member on Sunday.

The two-phase plan will begin with an initial focus on projects totaling $102 million, $30 million of which will come from a private gift pledged by the Kansas City Sports Trust. The rest, $72 million, will be paid for with revenue from additional premium seating at Memorial Stadium.

“We wanted to show the country that Missouri … is serious about stepping up in a big way,” Alden said.

The school’s Board of Curators unanimously approved the first phase of the plan Tuesday afternoon after a presentation from Alden, who then held a news conference announcing the $30 million gift, which he said was the second-largest in school history.

The athletic department unveiled renderings of the projects, which include upgrades to MU’s football, baseball, softball, tennis, golf and track and field complexes.

Football, however, figures to benefit most from the planned renovations. The Tigers are about to move into the most competitive football conference in the country — the SEC has won the last six national titles — and the first phase of the plan includes multiple upgrades to Memorial Stadium.

It calls for the construction of an upper bowl on the east side of the stadium that will add more than 5,000 general admission and 1,000 premium seats, plus restrooms, concessions and lounge spaces. That expansion is scheduled to be completed before the 2015 season.

More work is scheduled to be done by next season, including a $9.75 million renovation to the west side press box that will add new suite and club seating. Structural improvements to the stadium and the extension of the north plaza — moving the “Rock M” and berm closer to the end zone — for possible new seating areas are also planned.

In all, Alden said, the initial phase will increase Memorial Stadium’s capacity from 71,004 to a little more than 75,000. The second phase could increase seating to as much as 80,000.

“I remember 11 years ago, we looked at something and saw what it could be,” Alden said of football coach Gary Pinkel, whom he hired. “The success of our football program the last five, six years has propelled us to these heights.”

The second phase — to be completed within eight to 10 years, Alden said — includes a new, larger indoor football practice facility and an additional weight room. The south side of the stadium also stands to be renovated — Pinkel said the coaches’ offices will one day be moved into a new structure there.

“It’s a huge statement about the commitment the University of Missouri has in trying to achieve greatness,” Pinkel said. “When it’s all said and done, we’ll be in the top half (of the SEC) and probably the top ten in college football. So we’re doing the right things.”

And while Tuesday’s announcements were grand and majestic, they weren’t without a bit of comedy, particularly when Alden thanked the Kansas City Sports Trust for the $30 million donation — though he repeatedly declined to name the individual donors behind it.

“What a wonderful statement by the Kansas City — let me repeat that, Kansas City … Sports Trust,” Alden said, referring to comments made a month ago by Big 12 officials who boasted that Kansas City was a Big 12 town.

The Kansas City Sports Trust, which is administered by the law firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker, previously gave a $10 million gift to the MU athletic department in 2004. That matched the third-largest gift in MU history at the time.

“It was a trust formed by people who wish to remain anonymous but were interested then, and continue to be interested in, supporting the athletic programs at the University of Missouri,” said Mark Foster, the trustee of the Kansas City Sports Trust and former managing partner at Stinson Morrison Hecker.

“We’ve never disclosed information about our donations one way or the other.”

Alden asked all of “Tiger Nation” to chip in to the ongoing capital campaign. The school may have a $102 million jumpstart on the $200 million project, but Alden asked fans not to be “armchair quarterbacks” during such an important moment in the school’s history.

“This is going to give our program a chance to succeed for many decades,” Alden said.

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.

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