On Friday, Nov. 21, the Board of Governors at Missouri Western voted to approve and proceed with the $5.5 million auxiliary system revenue bond issue to pay for improvements and renovations to Spratt Memorial Stadium.
Final terms of the bond issue will be approved at a later date by the Board, but the resolution allows the university to execute a purchase with Edward Jones as underwriter and Gilmore & Bell as bond counsel. This vote essentially allows the university to make improvements immediately.
In a recent press release, Western President Dr. Robert Vartabedian stated that since 1979, the stadium has served our community well, but it’s seen better days.
“This project will help ensure the comfort and safety of our campus community and visitors for years to come while providing a new revenue stream for our athletic program,” Vartabedian said.
Spratt Stadium was completed in 1979, named in honor of avid Griffon supporter Elliot “Bub” Spratt. It was constructed for a total of $850,000.
The first football game played on the field was a 44-0 victory over Dana College on Sept. 8, 1979. Six years later, lights were added and the Griffons won the first night game over Missouri-Rolla 24-15 on Sept. 4, 1985.
The first soccer game played on the field was a 3-2 victory over Concordia-St. Paul on Sept. 3, 2006.
In 2006, the natural grass field was replaced by ProGrass synthetic field turf. Three years later, the visitors’ grandstand was remodeled and expanded, which increased the seating capacity to 7,200, plus standing room and hillside seating.
On Oct. 3, 2009, the Griffons hosted Northwest Missouri State and their largest crowd at 10,129 spectators.
They hosted their first NCAA Division II playoff game against Northwest on Nov. 19, 2011. A year later, they celebrated their first home playoff victory after a 57-55 triple overtime victory over Minnesota-Duluth.
In 36 seasons at Spratt Stadium, Griffon football is 129-69-3. Griffon soccer is 20-46-9 in eight seasons.
The cost balance that won’t be covered by the bond issue will come from private support already in hand. As of now, there is no plan on adding a fee to students tuition and none of it should be coming from students’ Max Experience. Planned improvements will cost an estimated $7.8 million. Because Spratt Stadium is a revenue-producing auxiliary facility, Western is able to pledge future revenues to cover debt service. That option is not available for academic or administrative facilities under state law.
However, the Missouri Western State University Foundation is going to continue to raise additional private support.
Currently proposed aspects of the project will include: the demolition of current concourse, concession area, restrooms, Stadium club and press box; construction of a new concourse, concessions area, restrooms, club level (including suites) and press box; repairs and improvements to the home grandstand seating area, including more chair-back seating; removal of the old track and relocation of the field closer to the home stands; relocation of the visitors’ side grandstands to be closer to the field; new field turf to replace the current surface; and addition of a video board.
The plan is to have the improvements finished before the Fall 2015 sports season, although there is some speculation that it will not be completed by the first game.
Defensive back, Michael Jordan, is excited about the renovations for the stadium, particularly the video board.
“This means a lot,” Jordan said. “Us having these new facilities, it’s going to help with recruiting… I think it is going to be top stadium in the conference with the new scoreboard, indoor [complex] and stadium. I don’t think there’s anyone who can compete with what we’re going to have as far as facility-wise.”
Head football coach Jerry Partridge is equally happy about the future plans for the stadium and what it means in terms of recruitment for football.
“Oh, I’m really excited,” Partridge said. “I’m excited for everybody. I think it’s going to be a good experience for everybody… Recruiting-wise we’ll use it. Obviously, its going to be a great place you can show them. It won’t be ready this winter, but it’ll be something you can walk through. It’s just going to be a great tool in that area for us.”
He also noted that the atmosphere is going to change with having the field closer to the stands.
“Fan experience is going to be better,” Partridge said. “Just having the field closer, the jumbotron, you name it and it’ll be a great experience for everybody.”
Dr. Cale Fessler, vice president for financial planning and administration, said that current economic conditions are favorable for a bond issue.
A true interest cost of bond financing would be low, at aboue 3.34 percent over a 20-year issue. Debt service on the bonds would be approximately $380,000 annually.
The history and future of Spratt Stadium are to be celebrated during a special event for fans, community members and current and former players. That event is to be scheduled when demolition and construction are set to begin.