JEFFERSON CITY - The University of Missouri's new arena proposal is now in the hands of the Senate. The House passed the resolution, by a vote of 84-72. Eighty-two votes were needed to pass.
"I think that people realize the value of the project," said sponsor Chuck Graham, D-Columbia,
Graham's fellow representatives from Boone County didn't feel the same way. Both Vicky Riback Wilson and Tim Harlan voted against the resolution.
"My vote today was consistent with my vote all along," said Riback Wilson, D-Columbia. "With the current budget situation, I just couldn't vote for this arena."
The most contentious opposition on the floor came from the other Columbia representative. Rep. Tim Harlan said that he was disappointed with the University.
"They brought Quin Snyder and the other basketball coaches down here to tell us how to legislate. They don't ask for our advice on the basketball court."
Opponents of the bill stressed the state's already fragile financial situation and suggested that the University could come up with the money on its own.
The resolution sets aside $2.7 million in revenue bonds every year, over a 20 year period, starting in 2005. The startup cash to begin construction comes from an anonymous $25 million donation.
"The donor is like a Porsche speeding down the Autobahn and the University is like an Amish buggy. My job has been to slow down the Porsche and speed up the buggy," said Graham.
The donation, which has come under fire from legislators that doubted it's existence, was backed today by the Bank of America. The bank issued a letter of commitment to the University Board of Curators guaranteeing the $25 million, provided that the General Assembly submit to the donor's previous stipulations: that the state agrees to spend $35 million and that the measure is passed before the end of the session.
Rep. Carson Ross, R-Blue Springs, said that he was impressed with presentations made by the University.
"The University of Missouri is the flagship school in the state. It has to keep up with the rest of the Big 12. I hate the idea of Kansas beating us at anything."
While Columbia's representatives voiced their opposition, the resolution drew support from all over the state. Supporter Quincy Troupe, D-St. Louis City, reminded the House about other stadium bills facing the legislature.
"The Cardinals came down here this week and put on a dazzling display. I'm telling you that if we pass this resolution, they're going to come knocking at our door."
The bill moves on, where Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, expects it to come to a vote anytime after the Rules committee meets next Thursday.
"I'm very pleased with the vote today. The new arena will have a tremendous impact on the University. This is as important to MU as Faurot Field and Hearnes Center are now."
Jacob says that with only three weeks left in this legislative session, the ball is in Sen. Bill Kenney's court, because as Republican floor leader, he controls the Senate agenda.
"I am not sure of his position right now, but I would think that as a former professional football player he would understand the importance of collegiate athletics."