MU’s new home: Paige Sports Arena

Sunday, March 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:34 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

With its court named, Missouri’s new basketball complex received a title Friday: Paige Sports Arena.

Bill and Nancy Laurie, who donated $25 million toward the arena’s construction, the largest amount given to the Missouri athletic department, received naming rights as a stipulation of their gift.

Paige Laurie has never been enrolled at Missouri; the Lauries’ only child has been a communications major at the University of Southern California since spring 2001.

The arena name is subject to approval from the university’s governing Board of Curators.

The Lauries, longtime Columbia residents, are the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. Bill Laurie was a point guard for Memphis State during its run to the 1973 NCAA Championship game, where it lost to UCLA.

MU Chancellor Richard Wallace announced earlier this month that the floor at the new arena would continue to be known as Norm Stewart Court, named after Missouri’s most-successful coach. In their original donation, the Lauries had stipulated that no aspect of the arena be named after former players or coaches, but they waived that right to allow the court to move.

The Lauries said in a statement: “As supporters of education and athletics, we are proud of our association with the University of Missouri. As parents, we are very proud of our daughter, Paige. So we could not be happier that the university would combine those two important parts of our lives in naming this new facility the Paige Sports Arena.”

The arena is southwest of Hearnes Center, the Tigers’ 32-year home that closed with an 84-82 loss to Kansas on March 7. A $75 million project, it is scheduled for completion Oct. 1 and will be a basketball-only arena.

Its financing came from the Lauries’ gift, along with $35 million from the Missouri General Assembly and $15 million the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics raised. The arena’s financing included no money from MU’s general operating fund.

The arena will hold about 15,000 fans, including private suites. More than 3,000 seats in the arena’s lower bowl will be student seating.

Nancy Laurie is the daughter of the late Bud Walton, a co-founder of the Wal-Mart empire with his late brother, Sam Walton. The Lauries live in Columbia, as did the Walton brothers in their youth.

Bill Laurie owns the St. Louis Blues professional hockey team and the team’s venue, Savvis Center. His management company is called Paige Sports Entertainment.

The family previously has donated money to a Missouri athletic department scholarship fund. They also endowed an equine professorship in their daughter’s name at the university’s veterinary school.

The arena deal guarantees the Lauries a 780-square-foot luxury suite at midcourt with a bathroom, kitchen and free catering, excluding alcohol; the use of a second, standard suite for eight events each year; and six courtside seats of their choice for all arena events.

The Lauries retain arena naming rights for four years from its opening, and competitors of businesses in which the Lauries “own a substantial interest” cannot have advertising or naming rights at the new arena without the Lauries’ approval.

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