Lauries give up Paige name rights

Curators to decide on the MU arena’s name.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:34 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

The search for a new namesake for the $75 million Paige Sports Arena begins today after the Laurie family on Tuesday passed the naming rights of the arena to the university.

UM President Elson Floyd and Chancellor Brady Deaton announced the decision Tuesday.

Bill and Nancy Walton Laurie contributed $25 million — the largest amount given toward the Missouri athletic department — for the construction of the $75 million stadium. The family are heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune and longtime Columbia residents. In exchange for their gift, they received the naming rights for four years as well as other considerations. The couple chose to name the arena after their daughter, Paige, 22, who graduated from the University of Southern California.

The Lauries voluntarily gave up the naming rights to the arena, according to a university press release.

The announcement came four days after ABC’s “20/20” aired a segment called “Big Cheats on Campus” in which a former roommate of the Lauries’ daughterat USC alleged that Paige Laurie had paid her $20,000 over a three-year period to do her coursework.

The Lauries could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

In the “20/20” segment, Paige Laurie’s former roommate, Elena Martinez, detailed her relationship with Paige Laurie, which she said involved completing assignments for her — even after finances forced Martinez to drop out of USC.

USC, meanwhile, had reportedly begun an investigation into the allegations, although a press spokesperson for the university refused to confirm those reports Tuesday night.

By Monday on the campus of MU, students who hadn’t already left for the Thanksgiving break had begun referring to the arena as “Plag-Arena,” as in plagiarism.

No official decisions had been made about the naming process Tuesday; however, the Board of Curators plans to meet soon to discuss the matter, according to the release.

“We are deeply grateful to the Laurie family for their longtime support of MU in academics and athletics,” MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said in a press release. “We respect their decision in this matter, and we will make a naming recommendation in the near future.”

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