COLUMBIA — Missouri athletics director Mike Alden gripped one handle on a yard-long pair of scissors. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin held the other. Missouri executive associate athletic director Tim Hickman stepped in, as well.
And as the three straddled the blades around a golden ribbon, more than 400 fans prepared for their first look at a long-awaited addition.
Nancy Allison with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce ordered the large crowd of Tiger fans waiting in front of the ribbon to belt out, "Let's open the east side of The Zou! Smile! Cut!"
On "Cut," Alden and Loftin clenched the scissors together, the ribbon collapsed and fans inched their way into the shiny new expansion of Memorial Stadium.
Other than a few finishing touches before Missouri's first football game Saturday against South Dakota State, Memorial Stadium's east side expansion is complete. The $45 million project, which began in April 2013, is the latest step in attracting fans. The experience will be different from anything they've seen before.
"There's nothing like this in the nation," said Algen Williams, the project manager of the Kansas City-based architectural firm Populous, which designed the expansion. "It's really a target of premium inventory for the next level of premium seating, and the whole east side was dedicated to that."
A walk up to the second floor of the new structure takes fans to a large skybox known as the Column Club. The Column Club is loaded with concessions, bathrooms, rows of dining tables and TVs, and has air conditioning.
Two suites bookend the skybox to the north and south of the addition, and the latter is Loftin's. Approximately 59 people can fit in each suite.
The Column Club connects to an additional 1,200 premium seats situated outside, which replaced approximately eight rows of what used to be upper-deck seats.
"It's adding on to the backside of the existing stadium," said Shannon Burrow, the field superintendent for J.E. Dunn, the construction firm that built the expansion. "Basically it's a whole new structure."
The premium seats are composed of 800 club-level seats and 400 loge seats. The loge seats are movable chairs that come with finished tabletops in front of them and outlets for electrical appliances.
"Premium seats pay the mortgage, so to speak, on a project like this," said Missouri associate athletic director Bryan Haggard. "It's about that fan experience. People like the opportunity to be out of the elements and like to have that amenity of indoor club space."
Hickman said he doesn't expect the premium seats to sell out, but he expects a strong showing regardless.
Although most of the premium-level seats are sold out closer to the 50-yard-line, Brandon Barnes, Missouri's director of advancement, said club-level and loge seats are still available farther away from the center of the field.
Barnes added that loge seats must be purchased in a four-seat package, which would be an $11,000 per year commitment for those four seats. It costs $3,500 for two club seats per year as well.
The upper deck seats have moved on top of the premium seating, and there are more of them.
Haggard said the east side of the stadium was under construction during the 2013 season, and that left the attendance near 68,000. But the new upper deck, now called Tiger Deck, installed an additional 4,100 seats or so, Haggard said.
That will bring the 2014 capacity to approximately 71,168 seats, which isn't far off from 2012's 71,004 capacity before construction.
"Those premium seats are on top of what used to be the old bowl, so we displaced a few people," Hickman said. "They got the first option to move up there. We have some allocations reserved up there, and we're selling some single-game packets up there."
The Tiger Deck seats are bleachers, but there are backs to them unlike student seating. For some perspective, the press box is just under eye level on the opposite side of Faurot Field.
Loftin and Alden thanked Populous and J.E. Dunn for their work on the stadium as well as donors for making the east side expansion a possibility.
"This is our place," Loftin said. "It's here for our team; it's here for our fans for today and tomorrow. We're going to celebrate a lot of football here. Just think about that."
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.