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University of Missouri without firm financing plan for $250M stadium project

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(The Center Square) – The University of Missouri announced a $250 million expansion and renovation to its football stadium, but officials don’t know how it will be financed.

“We are currently working on the financing plan,” Marcy Girton, interim athletic director at the Columbia campus, said during a livestream announcement from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, site of the Board of Curators meeting. “We engage some outside counsel on that or some outside vendor who helps us with that as well.

“But we’re fully prepared on our fundraising side to raise a substantial amount – at least half of this – and then there’ll be some revenue generation coming from our leadership gifts and also from the revenue from the seating as well,” she said. “So we feel very good from a financial standpoint.”

A media release from the university stated its Board of Curators unanimously approved a resolution to hire a Kansas City architecture firm to modernize Memorial Stadium by enclosing the north end of the stadium. The iconic rock “M” will remain along with general admission seating, but renderings show new premium seating above it.

Robert Blitz, a member of the Board of Curators and a St. Louis attorney whose firm shared $276 million in legal fees after a $790 settlement from the National Football League when the Rams departed for Los Angeles, praised Girton for her work and collaboration with the university’s athletic committee. Girton was named interim director in February when Desiree Reed-Francois left for the same job at the University of Arizona.

“She has done an incredible job in helping get this through and set up today,” Blitz said.

Reed-Francois departed as the university created an intercollegiate athletic committee. Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri, said the institution must have oversight because intercollegiate athletics is marketing for the Columbia campus.

“It’s the front porch for many universities like ours,” Choi said. “… It’s going to take a lot more effort from the administration and the board to ensure that we have sufficient and necessary investment, but also oversight, to ensure that those investments are leveraging the level of success that we expect.”

The project is expected to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of the stadium. Plans call for 51 new suites and new premium seating. Restrooms and concessions throughout the stadium will be upgraded and capacity increased from 62,621 to 65,000.

“We understand as a football program we are a window to the university and we take that responsibility very seriously,” said Eli Drinkwitz, head football coach. “But we’re also a window to our state… And we understand that we bring rural Missouri to metro Missouri at Faurot Field.”

The announcement comes days after a tax initiative in Jackson County to build a new baseball stadium in Kansas City and renovate the football stadium was defeated. Earlier this week, the Riverfont Times reported the St. Louis Cardinals will seek public funding to renovate Busch Stadium, completed in 2006.

Choi said the university’s annual expenditure of $150 million on athletics brings a four-to-one economic impact. He predicted the economic impact of the stadium project to increase “by another couple of $100 million.”

“Adding a stadium of this size that can increase the premium seating, bring in fans that would otherwise not come because they’re not enough premium seats, is another important way for us to develop economic impact,” Choi said. “But this facility will be used year round.”

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