University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton announced Tuesday an $8.3 million gift to MU’s athletic department from renowned donor Don Walsworth, CEO of Walsworth Publishing Company and former chairman of the university’s Board of Curators.
The gift, geared toward MU athletics’ needs after joining the Southeastern Conference, includes funding for renovations to Memorial Stadium as well as construction of a new clubhouse, housing, coaches’ offices, team locker rooms, indoor heated hitting bays and the latest swing instruction technology, for both the men’s and women’s golf teams.
“This gift to help renovate Memorial Stadium is vitally important as we transition into the SEC and step up to meet the new expectations of our new conference home,” Deaton said. “And the portion of the gift designated for the golf facilities at Old Hawthorne will have an enormous impact on our ability to recruit and retain quality student-athletes, both men and women.”
The gift, indicative of the Walsworth family’s love of golf — two of Don and his wife’s, Audrey, children played golf for Missouri — brings the family’s total giving to MU to nearly $14 million.
“We feel it’s vitally important that the university has the facilities that are necessary for the student athletes to prepare for events,” Don Walsworth said. “And we think the coaches need to have the top facilities to be able to compete in the SEC. As we all know the SEC is a very competitive conference and, consequently, it’s going to take the Missouri athletic department to move up the guard somewhat.”
Athletic director Mike Alden said the gift put funding “over the top” for the clubhouse which had been on the books for several years. It will cost, according to Alden, between $1.5 million and $2 million.
“We’ve got great alums and great friends of this institution that have been here for so many years that continue to help propel us forward in everything that we’re trying to do academically, everything that we’re trying to do from a research standpoint, everything that we’re trying to do from a student experience standpoint, and … everything we’re trying to do in intercollegiate athletics,” Alden said.
The remaining funds, about $6.3 million, will go toward improvements to Memorial Stadium and to the athletic department’s general scholarship and endowment funds. Alden said the department had not yet finished budgeting what portion of the remaining sum would be sent to either category.
“When you see a gift like that come in, a gift like that come in from the Kansas City Sports Trust, we try not to have all of that money go toward bricks and mortar,” Alden said, referring to another $30 million gift from anonymous donors at the Kansas City Sports Trust in June of 2012. “We like to have some of that money go toward scholarships and endowments because we’re really trying to build that up.”
The donation chips away at the $102 million capital improvement fundraising campaign that athletics already has in place to overhaul stadiums and practice facilities.
Memorial Stadium, the flagship of the campaign’s mission, will see completion of a new west tower and north concourse, which necessitates the movement of Faurot Fields’ historic “rock M” and cosmetic work to the base of the hill on which it sits, by the 2013 football season.
A construction contract for the east tower, the last of the phase-one renovations to the 87-year-old stadium, will be bid out in a month with ground breaking expected by the spring of 2013, Alden said regarding plans for the east tower.
“If we can catch a good break on the weather, if people do things in an expedient fashion, which we think they can, then our hope is that we can have that completed for the 2014 football season,” he added.
Second-phase renovations, namely that of the south concourse, have been put off until the department can raise more money.
Meanwhile, a contract for renovations to MU’s baseball facility will be bid out “soon,” Alden said, while a debate remains on whether to pump money into the softball team’s University Stadium, or start from scratch.
“The question is, do you just improve it toward what you got right now, or frankly do you take a look at building a brand new softball complex?” Alden said. “And that’s where we’ve put it on hold, just for a little bit, so we can really analyze that and we’ll make a decision on that probably within the next three to four months.”
If a new stadium were to be constructed, it would most likely be “on the same footprint,” Alden said. “But there’s a lot of work that has to go into that.”