COLUMBIA, Mo. – This fall, renovations on the south end zone at Memorial Stadium will be an eyesore. The project will drastically reduce parking in two lots. It will force Missouri and its opponents to dress in trailers and walk through a construction zone to get onto the field.
By 2019, when the new structure is completed, the Tigers will have new, sparkling locker rooms and coaches’ offices; multipurpose event decks in the stadium’s southeast and southwest corners; a brand-new rooftop video board; capacity for 4,000 fans in general seats, club seats and suites; and a “Bunker Club” inspired by AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Missouri officials expect the new structure to bring in $6 million from all revenue sources per season. That’s four times more than the previous south end zone configuration delivered annually.
“It will require a little bit of patience this year from our fans,” said Tim Hickman, the chief financial officer for Missouri athletics. “Unfortunately, sometimes progress takes some inconvenience.”
You won’t hear complaints from anybody within the athletic department. The soon-to-be cash cow also will be a recruiting tool for players (and coaches) and sends a message that the department isn’t resting on its big new Southeastern Conference checks. This is Memorial Stadium’s second major renovation since Missouri joined the SEC six years ago.
Built on 'an old dump'
Work on the south end zone has been a long time coming. The structure that was recently demolished was constructed in 1978 and was the first time a connection had been made across the south side of the stadium.
Since 1978, Missouri has renovated the north, east and west sides of the stadium – some of them multiple times. A locker room was constructed below the south stands in 1992, but there were no changes to the seating configuration until the stand was demolished in March.
While the south stand sank on Missouri’s priority list, the concrete itself was sinking into the ground. The site’s original topography was of a ravine that got deeper as it went south. The land had to be filled in to be built on, so decades before the south stand was finally built, city and university officials came up with a radical solution.
“It’s an old dump,” Hickman said. “... They had that as an open dump to fill it in to gain that space back there. It’s not the most ideal site to build something on. That presents some challenges.”
The old structure was supported by spread piers, which sat on top of the old landfill. The unstable footing was regularly monitored and the platforms were frequently squared up, Hickman said. It still sank 8 inches into the ground over its 30-year lifespan.
The new structure will be supported by pillars that drill into the bedrock, so there’s no worry of sinking.
Finding new space
The new structure isn’t just deeper. It’s also longer. Among the site’s current projects, which include the building of a crane platform, is a retaining wall for a new road farther south than the old one that ran under the bleachers.
That road will cut into parking in Lot G (directly south of the stadium and adjacent to the Tiger Performance Complex) and Lot C (at the top of a ridge southwest of the stadium). Construction will reduce the lots’ capacity severely. Making matters even worse in 2018 will be the temporary dressing rooms in Lot G and television operations in Lot C.
Hickman said the department is working on parking solutions for the displaced spots.
It is further along, however, in figuring out what to do for displaced fans who had season tickets in the old south end zone. The old south end zone stand was one of the most affordable sections in the stadium for season-ticket holders because of the lack of amenities around it. The nearest restrooms and full-service concession stands were under the east and west bleachers.
The new south end zone won’t be quite as affordable, because it will include concessions and restrooms. But director of communications Nick Joos said fans who had season tickets in the south end zone previously will retain their rate for at least three years and will get to pick their new spot in the stadium from sections where there is availability. Most are likely to end up in the upper decks of the stadium’s east side.
“People really become attached to their seats and who they are going to the games with,” Joos said. “It’s all about the experience. At least by maintaining that price point, we felt like that was a way to help them.”
Those ticket-holders will have the option to return to the south end zone when it is completed, though there won’t be room for everybody. Missouri’s initial release said that the new structure would hold 1,324 general seats, down from 10,800 in the old structure. Crowded concourses should be a thing of the past on that end of the stadium because they’ll now serve just 12 percent of the load they used to.
Quality over quantity
The rest of the capacity in the new south stand will be divvied up between 16 suites, 1,254 club seats and a separate 750-person field-level club.
Missouri has not yet started selling tickets for premium seating on the south end. It will enlist the help of Legends LLC, a consulting firm that has partnered with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and a few teams in England’s Premier League, to market and sell the premium seats.
The 16 suites will be the first to go. They vary in price and size, the cheapest going at around $40,000 per year. (The queueing process for suites starts with capital donors, and owners will also have make a multi-year commitment to get one.) Once the suites sell out, Missouri will sell out club seating before opening up sales for general seats. Price points for general season tickets will be set later this year, Joos said.
Anyone with tickets to games also can purchase entry to the field-level club, which players will run through before the game to get onto Faurot Field.
“It’s going to be very unique,” Hickman said. “I can high-five the team going onto the field. I can high-five somebody after a touchdown because I’m right there out of the end zone.”
Hickman expects construction to take place on the site six days a week until its completion, which is set for August 2019. For Missouri’s seven home games in 2018, the site will be closed Thursday through Sunday.
“They’ll shut the site down and get it all buttoned up and safe,” Hickman said. ... “Then our team and our operational staff will have a path through the construction site. Monday morning, it will open up as a construction site again.”
Memorial Stadium’s capacity will fall from 71,168 to around 61,000 during construction in 2018 then will go to approximately 65,000 when construction is completed. The lower capacity coupled with an increased proportion of fans in club areas and suites will reduce the number of cheap seats available and will also likely have an impact on the stadium environment.
Still, the program’s reputation and recruiting power stands to benefit from the wealth of new facilities – not to mention the athletic department’s bottom line in the long run. And for the fans who will make use of the new structure, those are small inconveniences in the name of progress.