COLUMBIA — Replacing public parking at the Reactor Field lot with media and staff for home football games this fall will open parking places closer to Memorial Stadium for donors to the Tiger Scholarship Fund.
Whit Babcock, senior associate athletics director, said all parking spaces for media have been reassigned from Lot Y. This 200-space lot on Carrie Francke Drive north of Reactor Field is now being used for donors to the Tiger Scholarship Fund, as well as 325 spaces once used for game-day employees in various locations around Memorial Stadium. Staff and media do not pay for parking.
“Some donors got bumped up into better lots as a result of some of the staff pass departures from various lots to Reactor Field — a domino effect, so to speak,” Babcock said in an e-mail.
The 200 spaces in Lot Y have sold out. They were purchased for a $100-minimum donation to the Tiger Scholarship Fund and $100 for a season parking pass that goes to the athletics department.
Chad Moller, spokesman for the MU athletics department, said some of the donors who will be moving into Lot Y previously parked in Lot X on Hospital Drive. The 250 newly empty spaces out of the 1,300 in Lot X will be sold to the public on game days for $15.
Scott McSwain, a 39-year-old parole officer who used to pay the game-day fee of $15 to tailgate at the Reactor Field lot, is among those who have decided to become a member of the Tiger Scholarship Fund for the privilege of parking in donor spots in Lot X.
"I felt like I had to buy a parking pass," McSwain said. "It is about the money. College football is a big business. I understand, but I don’t like it.”
McSwain, a season ticket holder for 11 years, said he made the minimum contribution of $50 to the Tiger Scholarship Fund and paid $100 for a season parking pass. This guaranteed him a spot in one of the 1,050 donor spots in Lot X.
Parking for donors to the Tiger Scholarship fund in the reassigned spaces is based on each donor’s priority points and by membership levels that range from $50 to above $26,802 according to MizzouGameday.com. A person receives 2 priority points for every consecutive year season tickets have been purchased for football or men’s basketball.
Geoff Ingram, a 39-year-old accountant who tailgates with McSwain, said he couldn't buy a parking pass because the season tickets were under McSwain's name.
“Even though all 10 of us have been season ticket holders for 11 years, I am the only one that has the Tiger Scholarship Fund points, so my buddies don’t get the benefits even though they have been paying for the tickets,” McSwain said.
McSwain said he was told that a letter must be written and reviewed by a committee to request that his friends be given points for the 11 years they have been season ticket holders.
“There is no reason why we should have to be slaves to the University of Missouri to get together," McSwain said. "We don’t mind paying for parking, just give us a place where we all can park.
"The Royals treat us far better than the Tigers," McSwain said. "The 10 of us are going to have a group meeting at the first game to decide if we should keep going to games in the 2010 season.”
In 2005, $1.2 million was spent by MU Parking and Transportation Services to create the Reactor Field lot. Babcock said MU continues to review whether to offer the 225 spots in Reactor Field that are not assigned to staff and media to Tiger Scholarship Fund donors in 2010.
To offset the closure of the Reactor Field lot, 2,000 parking spaces will be made available in Parking Structure #7, the new garage located at the corner of Monk Drive and Virginia Avenue. This garage will have a general admission $15 parking fee on game days.
Babcock estimated the cost of eliminating the $15 parking at Reactor Field at $12,000 per game, or a loss of about $72,000 total for six home games. Those figures don't include expenses such as paying parking staff and a cleanup crew. The revenues will be divided between MU and the athletics department.
Police and campus officials have cited problems with fans' behavior for closing the Reactor Field lot to the public.
MU Police Capt. Brian Weimer said police tried to break up a fight on Oct. 11, and one tailgater pushed an officer into a tent pole. He was arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault on a law enforcement officer.
Ingram and McSwain said they think asking fans to show a ticket at each entrance in Reactor would help prevent underage alcohol consumption. There are different theories, but most agree moving the students will not solve anything.
“We have no idea what students are going to do, but we have a proactive approach,” Weimer said.
Jordan Paul, president of the Missouri Students Association, said he remains opposed to the decision. Paul has been involved in conversations with MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and members of the athletics department about closing the Reactor Field lot.
The Missouri Students Association on Aug. 31 posted a petition against the Reactor Field lot change. The petition argues that there is not an alternative for students that is cost effective and safe and that this change will not help with fan behavior issues. The general concern, the petition says, is that there won’t be enough open spaces for students to park on game days.
"We couldn't come to an agreement, and the problems were not fixed," Paul said. "We set a minimum goal to get 5,000 signatures. This would show that the student body does not stand by this decision."