Missouri’s plan to build a new football practice facility was boosted Thursday with the announcement of a $10 million donation from the Kansas City Sports Trust.
The anonymous donation is earmarked for “the building of football facilities, which are currently being developed in the master planning process by Athletics and campus facilities,” according to a release from MU.
“We are so pleased to make this announcement today,” new Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk, who was hired last month, said in the release, thanking the Kansas City Sports Trust.
He continued, “We’re so appreciative of this support, and we’re hopeful that this will encourage others to join in and help us achieve our goals of building football facilities that put us in the upper echelon of the Southeastern Conference. Making this facility become a reality is critical to our commitment in providing one of the best student-athlete experiences in the country.”
Initial plans for a football-only facility in the south end zone at Memorial Stadium were hatched under former athletic director Mike Alden and former football coach Gary Pinkel. The idea morphed under former athletic director Mack Rhoades into a full-length indoor practice field combined with a Mizzou Athletics Training Complex renovation project.
Now, after conversations between Odom and Sterk, the idea for a football-only facility at Memorial Stadium is back on the table as the first of three planned phases.
The first phase will cost about $75 million and Sterk estimates with today’s donation, previous donations and bonds that roughly $55 million has been raised.
He told reporters Thursday in Columbia that the new football-only facility — which would include a weight room, new locker rooms, coaches’ offices, training rooms and a recruiting area — probably would be located in the south end zone, but those plans haven’t been finalized.
Sterk hopes to have a proposal in front of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators by October with December as the target for project approval.
“The Kansas City Sports Trust has such a generous history of giving to Mizzou, and we’re very grateful for their continued commitment,” Tigers football coach Barry Odom said in the release. “We’ve said from the start that we can’t do this alone — we need support from our fans to get where we want to be, and this is an amazing statement of support. I’m excited to get to work with our administration and our architects to develop plans that will showcase Mizzou in a first-class manner.”
Sterk said Missouri is behind on facilities compared to the much of the SEC — something he was told before he took the job by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and his predecessor, Mike Slive. Sterk also said the project will help rebuild the school’s brand after a tumultuous 2015-16 academic year.
Phase two is a new full-length indoor football practice facility and phase three is a renovation to the existing Mizzou Athletics Training Complex after football moves out.
Sterk also said MU’s new softball stadium, currently under construction east of the Hearnes Center, could be ready by March. University Field will be maintained as a backup in case the new stadium isn’t game-ready for the 2017 season.
Plans also are underway to install a turf infield and outfield at Taylor Stadium for baseball, a project that could be completed in time for the 2018 season.
This isn’t the first time the Kansas City Sports Trust has kick-started a capital campaign for the Tigers athletic department.
The Trust, a group of anonymous donors based in and around Kansas City, previously gave MU athletics a $30 million gift in 2012 on the eve of its entrance into the SEC.
That was part of a $102 million facilities plan that included the renovation and expansion of Memorial Stadium and several other projects — improvements for softball’s University Field and baseball’s Taylor Stadium, a new team clubhouse for the golf team at The Club at Old Hawthorne and upgrades at the women’s tennis facility.
Formed in 2004, the Kansas City Sports Trust’s initial donation of $10 million at that time provided seed money for efforts to build the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex.
Continued facilities improvement remains a critical component to the ongoing SEC transition in the eyes of Missouri’s administration. The university is in the midst of a $1.3 billion “Mizzou: Our Time to Lead” campaign and set a single-year record with $171 million in donations during the 2016 fiscal year, which ended June 30.