The Missouri athletic department moved into a really expensive neighborhood five years ago.
In the Southeastern Conference, Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Auburn all reported revenue of $140 million or more during 2015-16.
Mizzou took in a school-record $97.2 million during the last fiscal year for which figures are available. And on Friday, the football team got a boost when the University of Missouri System Board of Curators unanimously approved the construction of a $98 million football facility in Memorial Stadium’s south end zone.
“Missouri is making a bold statement with today’s announcement and I am confident that it not only will pay big dividends in recruiting, but it will help improve our game-day atmosphere throughout the stadium,” second-year MU football coach Barry Odom said in a release. “I can’t wait to get the shovels in the ground and get going. I am thankful to lead the Mizzou Football program and represent our University and State, and am pleased we have undertaken a project of this stature.”
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The Memorial Stadium South Expansion will break ground early next winter and is expected to open in time for the 2019 season.
Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk, who made a formal presentation that included a finalized funding plan and details of the project’s scope during the meeting, revived the project last December after his predecessor had pivoted toward a renovation of the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex.
“With football, it really helps us overall,” Sterk said. “When you have facilities like this, it really gives you an opportunity to showcase what’s going on in your program, so it opens doors that maybe we didn’t have before and I think Barry will be able to utilize it from a football standpoint. Also, as I talked about, it’s a revenue generator.”
The curators approved construction of a three-story, 200,000-square foot structure — including roughly 150,000 square feet of enclosed space — that will replace the existing general admission bowl, which was built in 1977.
Six months ago, Mizzou received approval to hire Kansas City-based Populous to oversee the project, which will be financed through private gifts ($40 million) and bonds on future ticket revenues ($57.2 million) along with a small contribution from the Campus Infrastructure Fund ($800,000). Sterk told the board MU has received verbal commitments for two other seven-figure donations toward the project, which haven’t been finalized and announced but could further reduce the debt financing needed.
M.A. Mortenson Company, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, will serve as the project’s construction manager and Kansas City-based Henderson Engineers will serve as lead engineer for mechanical, electrical and plumbing.
Plans call for a new team locker room, training facility, weight room, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms, recruiting reception area, dining facility, and equipment storage. The south end zone also will feature new videoboards, a rooftop video deck and two-bay loading dock along with a new road connecting the west side of the stadium to the south side.
“Our goal is to build one of college football’s premier facilities for our student-athletes and coaches to utilize on a daily basis, and we are confident that we can achieve that within the project’s budget and scope,” Sterk said in a release. “When this facility is completed, not only will it be an incredible asset in recruiting, but our expectations are that it will enhance the game-day environment for our fans at Memorial Stadium, too.”
It will include 16 new suites, a 750-person field-level club similar to the Dallas Cowboys’ at AT&T Stadium, a 1,254-seat indoor club area and 1,324 general admission seats plus some standing-room only sections to replace the current 10,800 general-admission seats.
Despite an 8 percent reduction in Memorial Stadium’s capacity, from 71,004 to roughly 65,000, school officials project a net revenue increase of approximately $4.5 million from the new premium options for attendance. The current general-admission seats generate $1.5 million, but Sterk told the Board he expects the new seating options to create “in excess of $6 million” in revenue.
“We can turn some of the cheaper seats into higher-demand seats, and we have high demand in the premium seating area,” Sterk said. “We have 97 percent of our east side that was done in 2014 sold out, so people want those kind of amenities at games. We want to bring more people to games, so this gives us an opportunity to do that and enhance our revenue and raise it so we are more competitive with in the SEC.”
The stadium’s capacity will be approximately 61,000 during the 2018 season after the existing south bowl is torn down and before the new facility is built. South bowl general admission ticket-holders who don’t remain in the renovated section could be displaced to the east-side expansion’s upper deck.
The reduced stadium capacity is in line with current attendance trends and future projections.
“About a year ago in an AD’s meeting, I remember listening to a presentation,” Sterk said. “It was actually (Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO) Steve Ballmer talking about virtual reality. Everyone in there with 100,000-seat stadiums that had just gotten projects done, they were turning white a little bit. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the world is changing.’”
Sterk said current renderings of the newly approved stadium are “pretty accurate about what it will look like.”
This will be the third major project at Memorial Stadium since MU joined the SEC in 2012.
The Tigers renovated the press box and brought the iconic white-rock “M” closer to the field prior to the 2013 season and opened the east-side expansion a year later, adding more premium seating and upper deck.
Missouri announced plans for a new south end zone project in December 2014. Former football coach Gary Pinkel and former athletic director Mike Alden hatched the idea after the Tigers repeated as SEC East division champions, but Mack Rhoades preferred renovating the all-sports training facility during his brief tenure as the Tigers’ athletic director.
Sterk, who was hired last August, breathed new life into the Memorial Stadium project and quickly raised the necessary capital.
Asked what’s next, Sterk laughed and said, “Give me a break.”
He then said a new capital campaign will launch this winter.
“We are going to have a campaign for Mizzou athletics that will be more encompassing of all our needs from scholarships to facilities,” Sterk said.
A new full-length indoor practice facility for football is expected to be part of that project.