JEFFERSON CITY -A Missouri House committee heard debate Monday on whether to give the University of Missouri $35 million for a new sports arena.
It will take an estimated $75 million to build the new facility. The University is asking the state to use revenue bonds to raise $35 million to supplement a $25 million contribution from an anonymous contributor. The remaining $15 million would come from other fund raising efforts.
Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, sponsored the resolution, saying that a new arena is necessary for MU to compete with other Big XII schools.
"We saw what happened when we fell behind before. Years ago, the football team wasn't doing well becuase we couldn't keep players in the state," said Graham. "They left because the facilities were not what they should have been."
Rep. Carson Ross, R-Blue Springs, concurred. "I am in support of this resolution because MU is a state university-- we don't want to be the laughingstock of the Big XII."
MU volleyball coach Susan Kreklow testified on behalf of the University, saying the Hearnes Center was lacking in adequate locker room, office and practice space for Olympic sports. The new facility would be built just south of the 28 year-old Hearnes Center, and both arenas would be used for athletic events.
Opposition cited the Missouri's current fiscal situation and better uses for the money as reasons to oppose the resolution.
"I have talked to hundreds of students and scores of faculty in the 15 years since I moved to Columbia," said resident Ken Green. "Their main priorities are increased salaries for faculty, more scholarships for gifted students and improved facilities within the individual departments."
Others cited the need for improved roads and bridges, health care and improvements to the University hospital system as better uses for 35 million in taxpayer dollars.
"There needs to be a distinction between niceties and necessities. A volleyball court is a nicety," said Columbia community activist Eleanore Wickersham. "I urge you not to turn your back on the people who elected you; spend the people's money on the people's priorities."