Memorial Stadium's hydration efforts get mixed reviews

Saturday, August 31, 2013 | 11:26 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Cheryl Ferguson was down to what she felt was her last option.

After being unable to locate free water in the west side of Memorial Stadium, the thirsty Missouri football game attendee got a cup full of ice from a concession stand, but that didn’t quite do the trick.

So, she stood outside of the women’s bathroom on Saturday night with a small paper cup, ready to fill it with water from the bathroom sink. Her husband was going to do the same, but someone warned them that the men’s bathroom water wasn’t fit for drinking.

Several other attendees had similar problems finding free water in the 100-degree heat, despite efforts by the Missouri athletics department to provide more water jugs, mist stations and cups of ice.

“It was our obligation to remind people to be safe,” said Chad Moller, Missouri football spokesman. “Things seemed to run pretty well, and that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a problem here or there. It was a great crowd for the elements.”

Still, there appeared to be a disconnect between the stadium’s campaign and some people's experience.

“Just let me know where water is,” said Ferguson, 48, “or let me bring a water bottle in on a day like today.”

Of course, the “heat advisory” email sent by Missouri athletics stated, “One (1) unopened, factory sealed bottle of water is permitted to enter the stadium.”

But Ferguson did not receive an email. And for many on the west side — sheltered from the mist and jug stations on the northwest concourse — there didn’t seem to be a way to cool off in the scorching heat during Missouri’s 58-14 victory over Murray State.

“I don’t think that they were quite ready for how hot it was going to be,” said Elizabeth Coulter, 27. “They need more cooling stations and to make sure everything is well-stocked.”

MU police Capt. Brian Weimer said the event produced 46 total emergencies, most of which were related to dehydration, but he did not think that number was out of the ordinary.

“It was a typical nighttime event,” Weimer said.

Emergency medical technicians at the stadium’s designated first aid station were unable to give comment on the number of heat-related illnesses on Saturday night, but there was a steady stream of activity throughout the first half before the cooler weather and a large Missouri football lead contributed to a decline in the number of people affected and in the stands.

The station, secluded in an up-hill alley, provided free water bottles to those who entered, but there was no sign indicating that such a service would be provided besides the red “First Aid” insignia.

A station official said that official numbers would be available Tuesday.

“Any time you throw a party for 60,000 people, there’s going to be people who experience something they didn’t like,” Moller said. “We try to work with the media to help get the message out as much as possible. Social media and our website and word of mouth. After that, there’s only so much you can do.”

Ferguson decided not to get water from the bathroom sink — she gave in and purchased a bottle of water from the concession stand — but remained frustrated with the weather and the service.

“Usually, I don’t come until October for this very reason,” she said.

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