Give Southern athletics the facilities they need to compete

2008 football season predictions horribly mistaken, but Tatum knows talent

2008 football season predictions ‘horribly mistaken,’ but Tatum knows talent

Cody Dyer

Here’s something to mull over.

What if your Missouri Southern Lions played in a top-notch football facility?

You know, a stadium with closer field sightlines, a fan-friendly tailgating area, a brand new field house with state-of-the-art training equipment and maybe even a fancy new Jumbotron to see yourself during a game.

It sounds, at the moment, out of reach, doesn’t it?

Fred G. Hughes Stadium, home of the MSSU Lions football and track and field teams, is still – by MIAA standards – relatively new.

Unlike many other MIAA schools, however, Fred G. Hughes Stadium hasn’t received a drastic overall since opening in 1975. Recently, Sprinturf was installed on the playing field in 2003 along with an all-weather surface on the track and new light standards.

Outside of that, the facility hasn’t received a whole lot of love. And in today’s society of bigger and better, either you’re changing with the times or you’re simply put out to pasture.

Football, like any other NCAA sport, is big business, driven by an endless flow of cash. Division II schools, in most cases, usually don’t amass the kind of revenue Division I schools do.

Smaller schools, like MSSU for example, depend on alumni, private donations, student fees and advertising revenue to help pay for athletics and facility upgrades.

The bottom line, it’s not easy to always come up with the necessary funds to pay for a massive renovation. Nonetheless, in order to compete at a respectable level year after year, a program must have the necessary tools in order to do so. And the time has come to update Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

We all want to see the Lions contend for an MIAA Conference championship every year, right?

Plans have been drawn up for a possible stadium renovation to Fred G. Hughes Stadium and a new facility for the baseball program. It is paramount for this plan to be executed.

Bart Tatum and his coaching staff built a respectable squad last year, and there isn’t any reason to believe the Lions couldn’t win seven to eight games this season. Since succeeding Warren Turner, Bryce Darnell has begun the slow process of turning around Missouri Southern’s proud baseball program – another area which, traditionally, doesn’t receive a whole lot of love.

So, how do we do it? Pittsburg State’s Carnie Smith Stadium underwent a $5.7 million expansion, made possible by private funding, in 2001. With the addition of club seating and an additional 2,700 seats, capacity grew from 5,611 permanent seats to 8,343 seats. More importantly, 16 luxury boxes were built.

Now, seating really isn’t the problem at Hughes stadium. What Missouri Southern really needs is a way to draw revenue from its facility. Seating, in this case, isn’t the answer. Instead, it’s about fan comforts and areas to draw people before and after the game – something Hughes Stadium is lacking right now.

Another key is luxury boxes – an area in the stadium guaranteed to make money. Luxury boxes can be privately owned but more times than not, are bought by corporations.

Northwest Missouri State, a traditional rival with PSU, plays at Bearcat Stadium – the Lambeau Field of the MIAA. Bearcat Stadium is the longest running site for football in NCAA Division II. Renovations to the stadium began in 2000. The stadium, in essence, was completely rebuilt before being unveiled in 2003.

The student body covered expenses for the initial project, but recent work has been paid for by private funds. Since work wrapped up, Northwest has won two MIAA championships outright.

Those are only two examples, but you get the idea. It’s like any business venture; If you want to make money, you have to spend money. Southern, unfortunately, is in a bit of a financial bind, and asking the students to foot the bill may be a stretch with the new student center being built.

Nonetheless, upgrades must happen soon to insure our program’s continued success in the future.

If it doesn’t happen, Southern will continue to be nothing more than a mediocre athletic school. I’ll be the first to say it, education is, above all, the most important field at any given college or university. Sports; however, play a pivotal role for many people on campus.

Isn’t it time we give current and future Missouri Southern athletes, as well as coaches the necessary means for athletic success?