Driving on Providence south of Stadium it’s easy to see that Reactor Field is changing.
The open area between Taylor Stadium and the Green Tennis Center will no longer be available for football tailgating or recreational sports.
A post and cable fence lines the perimeter of the field to control vehicle access, and large piles of dirt cover the northeast corner of the field. The field will eventually become a parking lot for a business incubator.
Construction on the field began July 22. Jim Joy, MU’s director of parking and transportation, said the northeast parking lot will be ready for commuter parking by the time school starts on Aug. 23. The 206-spot parking lot will replace parking spaces taken up by construction at the Trowbridge Livestock Center, on the southeast edge of campus. MU officials approved plans to develop the field for parking May 25.
Christian Basi, of the MU News Bureau, said plans always included Reactor Field as a parking lot.
“Reactor Field has never been designated for anything except for a research park,” Basi said. “This has been in the plan for years. People have used the field for other activities in the past, but that had no bearing on the area’s use in the future.”
Basi said the business incubator will allow small startup companies using innovations made in MU laboratories the resources they need “to survive.” The incubator will provide office and laboratory research facilities for the young companies.
On April 5, the Columbia City Council voted to join MU in applying for a $2.5 million grant from the Federal Economic Development Administration. The grant would help pay for the construction of the incubator.
Until the incubator is developed, the northeast corner lot, and eventually the whole field, will be used as commuter parking.
Phil Shocklee, MU’s associate director of facilities management, said the plan has no timetable because construction depends on fill material excavated from other construction sites around campus. Shocklee said in its current condition the field is too low and swampy to be a parking lot without bringing in fill material. Without a timetable, Basi said there is no cost projection.
Shocklee said he hopes that during football season the fence will prevent tailgaters from using the field and the condition of the field should not be attractive to tailgaters.
“Last fall there were a couple of very wet, rainy games where the field was basically destroyed,” Shocklee said. “There were still vehicles on Monday mornings stuck in the mud up to their frames that created such bad ruts. That has not been rebuilt or mowed since (the end of the 2003 football season).”
Ian Hermann, the coach for the MU men’s rugby club team from 1983-2003, said Reactor Field looks like a jungle.
Hermann said even when Reactor Field was under the control of MU Recreation Services (the department had use of the field until January 2003) people would park on the field.
Vehicles made the field rougher to play on, said Jeff Pohlig, a rugby player from 1986-89.
“I think it is a shame (the field won’t be available),” Pohlig said. “Since I’ve been back (in 2001) the campus has completely changed, so it doesn’t surprise me.”
Hermann said the rugby team came back from winter break in 2003 and found out the field was no longer available.
“I am disgusted that they should take any field away that we had for so long,” Hermann said.