Alden: Missouri athletics facilities projects, SEC Network give program more visibility

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 | 8:17 p.m. CDT; updated 6:41 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 4, 2014

COLUMBIA — There's an arms race taking place in the Southeastern Conference.

While some teams in the smaller conferences are worried about how they can continue generating revenue, athletics programs in the SEC continue to build new facilities and add on to their current ones.

Missouri is one of those schools that continues to update its athletics facilities, and the ability to build in the age of the Power Five conferences — SEC, the Big 12 Conference, the Big 10 Conference, the Pacific-12 Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference — has never been more important.

In a roundtable discussion Wednesday morning, Missouri athletics director Mike Alden updated members of the media about the state of the program's construction projects. The new facilities are part of an effort to make Missouri sports more visible and to compete with the rest of the teams in the Power Five landscape.

The $45 million expansion of Memorial Stadium was displayed to the public last week. The renovations, which were finished by Missouri's first game against South Dakota State last Saturday, included a new skybox, two suites, 1,200 premium seats and more than 4,100 new upper-deck seats.

"That facility and the feedback we got back on it has been amazing," Alden said. "It's certainly a big-time facility, and it's something that adds to Faurot Field unlike anything else we've done."

College football attendance numbers have been a national concern recently, but Alden said the stadium had no problem with filling most of its student seats Saturday.

"They (the students) got there early, and they've exceeded the number of tickets that they had the year before," Alden said.

Alden said three projects will take place in the near future: a new indoor football facility by the current Mizou Athletics Training Complex, a new softball stadium on the east side of the Hearnes Center and a new Panasonic video board in Mizzou Arena.

"Strategically, the reason we put the softball stadium where we put the softball stadium was for visibility," Alden said. "And that's a high visibility area on Monk Drive and Stadium."

The visibility Alden mentioned goes a long way to help recruiting. So does the SEC Network.

The SEC Network, which launched Aug. 14, will broadcast 100 men's basketball games, 60 women's basketball games, 40 volleyball games, 25 soccer games, 50 softball games and 75 baseball games. SEC schools are expected to gain a slice of the pie.

How big is that slice? Alden isn't exactly sure.

"We did budget $0 for the SEC Network this year," Alden said. "As far as what do we think it will be, we're pretty confident it will be more than zero. I'm not trying to be flippant, but what that number is going to be, we don't know for sure."

The launch of the SEC Network and the stadium arms race have brought the conference autonomy topic up to the forefront.

On Aug. 7, the NCAA granted the Power Five conferences autonomy, which gives the conferences the ability to self-govern and make their own rules.

The SEC gives an equal cut of its revenue to each of its 14 members, unlike the Big 12, which divides its money unequally among its 10 member schools.

Missouri brought in $76.3 million during its second season in the SEC. The most Missouri earned in the Big 12 was $25.4 million in 2010.

The growing gap between conferences has raised questions about the Power Five conferences branching off and creating their own governing body. Yahoo Sports columnist Pat Forde says he disagrees.

"There are a lot of headaches involved with that (creating a new league), and I think the commissioners, especially the key commissioners being Mike Slive (SEC) and Jim Delany (Big 10), are both old enough that they don’t want to reinvent the entire model," Forde said. "It’s not going to happen on their watch."

With all the talk about the conference autonomy, Alden said it's important to keep the ball rolling when it comes to revamping Missouri's athletics facilities and presence.

"This is my 17th year, and it seems like every year we've been working on something," Alden said. "It is what we should be doing, whether it's renovating something or trying to improve something."

Supervising editor is Raymond Howze.

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