COLUMBIA — Missouri is considering a modest stadium expansion as it prepares to leave the Big 12 Conference for the football-mad SEC.
The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that a facilities master plan calls for the addition of an unspecified number of premium outdoor club seats on the stadium's east side. The vertical addition would mirror the press box and luxury suites on the stadium's west side.
Memorial Stadium's current seating capacity of 71,004 will rank 10th among the Southeastern Conference's 14 schools. Missouri and Texas A&M plan to leave the Big 12 for the SEC next year.
Missouri associate athletic director Tim Hickman said the addition could cost between $30 million and $40 million and will likely be built using department reserves or money raised from private donors. A marketing consultant will help determine the number of seats, the physical layout and pricing options, he said.
Hickman suggested the expansion could add between 1,200 and 2,500 seats on two to four levels.
Missouri currently offers two types of indoor premium seats — 20-person private suites and the communal club seats of the Tiger Lounge. Club seats currently cost $425 for a season ticket. In the outdoor version, fans can go inside to get food and drinks and come outside to watch the game.
The university plans to begin a major fundraising campaign in 2012, but the athletic department is without its top development officer after Whit Babcock's recent departure to become athletic director at Cincinnati.
Hickman said that the impending cost of Big 12 exit fees — an amount yet to be determined but pegged at as much as $26 million by school officials — won't hinder the project. He also expects fan excitement over the SEC move to translate into more donations.
"It will be totally separate funding," he said. "We will not use any university dollars, any tuition dollars for exit fees. We will fund that out of reserves that we'll pay back over time. We think we can find other opportunities to do that and focus those potential gifts on improving our facilities and programs."
Hickman said there are no plans to expand the seating capacity above what will be added with the club seats. Missouri has sold out only one home game this season, its homecoming victory over Iowa State, and had nearly 10,000 empty seats in a recent home game, a Nov. 12 victory over Texas.
"I don't think our intention is to go out and 'build it and they will come,' " Hickman said. "I don't think adding pure numbers is priority No. 1. Our priorities are to accommodate our premium-level demand and also to keep our stadium as a first-class stadium."
Other planned facility improvements include a new artificial turf surface for Faurot Field, which Hickman said could be installed as soon as the upcoming offseason.