The MU Athletic Department began decorating for the holiday season a little early this year. With nine months until Christmas, a 3-foot tall evergreen tree has been placed atop the 2,006 tons of steel that form the skeleton of the new MU basketball arena.
In a traditional topping out ceremony, athletic department employees and supporters joined officials from J.E. Dunn Inc. to commemorate the success of the $75 million construction project to give the Tigers a new home. The Paige Sports Arena, whose name was formally announced Friday, will house both men’s and women’s basketball beginning in the fall. The arena, which will have a seating capacity of 15,061, will include support facilities, office space and 26 private suites.
At the center of Monday’s celebration was a steel beam, signed by gatherers and complete with an American flag, an MU athletic flag and the evergreen tree in the middle. Gene McArtor, director of project management for MU, explained the significance of the topping out tradition.
“These ceremonies go back hundreds of years and represent a combination of a safe project — that they’ve gotten through the most dangerous part of the project safely ... and also, hopefully, a good luck charm for the future,” he said.
MU men’s basketball coach Quin Snyder said, “We certainly are grateful to everybody (for) all the hard work ... involved in this partnership,” he said. “It’s a great team that they’ve assembled.”
Following comments from McArtor, Snyder and Terry Dunn — president and CEO of J.E. Dunn Inc.— the beam was lifted to the peak of the 117-foot-9-inch structure.
Construction of the new arena was made possible by a $25 million donation from the Bill Laurie family in November 2000 and a $35 million construction bond awarded by the state in 2001. Other private donations provided an additional $15 million. Construction began in February 2003.
The arena is named after Paige Laurie, the daughter of Bill and Nancy Laurie.