COLUMBIA, Mo. • For years Missouri baseball coach Tim Jamieson had a strategy for giving recruits a tour of the clubhouse at Taylor Stadium.
“We didn’t show them,” he said.
Because there was no clubhouse. The players’ locker rooms were housed in the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex, which required a trek across a football practice field.
“We’ve had a lot of kids comment over the years, ‘Talk to me when you have a real locker room,’” Jamieson said. “It was never really serious, kind of tongue-in-cheek. But I can remember days when I first got here that we wouldn’t show them the field. I remember taking a kid by the fence (on Stadium Boulevard) and saying, ‘There it is.’ And I’d keep going.”
Those days are over now that Taylor Stadium is undergoing a $4 million makeover, one of several ongoing renovations at Mizzou as the school finds its stride in the facilities race across the Southeastern Conference.
Jamieson’s program is getting a 4,000-square foot clubhouse down the third-base line, complete with a plush locker room, training room, player lounge and coaches’ offices.
The oval-shaped locker room, modeled after the Cardinals’ and Nationals’ major-league clubhouses, will give Taylor Stadium the “wow factor” it’s been missing, Jamieson said.
“Missouri has always been (about) take what you have and make the most of it,” he added. “With this project that’s what we’re doing.”
That could be the unofficial theme for the athletics department as it navigates toward its second year in the SEC with a bigger budget and more revenue on the way when the SEC Network launches on television in 2014.
Mizzou never will outspend the richest schools in the SEC — MU’s 2012 budget of approximately $67 million ranked 12th in the SEC, according to USA Today’s annual survey — but Mike Alden’s athletics department continues to spend and grow.
For 2013-14, Mizzou projects a budget of between $73-75 million and close to $70 million in revenue, executive associate athletics director Tim Hickman said. Both would be record figures for a department that worked with a budget of $13.7 million when Alden became athletics director 15 years ago.
Hickman attributed the increases to enhanced league revenue, increased football ticket sales and private donations.
On Friday, the SEC announced it will distribute $289.4 million in league revenue for the 2012-13 fiscal year, with Missouri getting a full share of $20.7 million. That’s more than double the revenue MU earned from the Big 12 just three years ago. MU’s 2010 share was approximately $9 million, Hickman said.
In 2011, the last year MU received Big 12 revenue, the school earned $11 million.
After leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, Missouri did not receive a league payout last year. Instead, the Big 12 withheld $12.41 million from MU, which the university absorbed. The athletics department will repay the university over the next several years, Hickman said.
Meanwhile, construction crews are busy. A fleet of cranes arrived Tuesday at Memorial Stadium to continue the biggest chunk of the $72 million project announced last summer. Crews are gutting the inside of the tower on the west side of the stadium to revamp suites and move the press area from the fifth to sixth floor.
The hill behind the north end zone is being movedcloser to the field, opening more space along the concourse. Both projects are expected to be complete by the start of the season.
The changes on the north side will temporarily reduce the stadium’s capacity from 71,004 to around 68,000, Hickman said. Mizzou does not plan to add bleachers on the field behind the north goalpost or on the north concourse as it has for big games in years past.
“We could put those (bleachers) up there in the future, and if demand drove up this year, that could be an option,” Hickman said. “But I don’t anticipate that. We had a couple sellouts last year with Alabama and Georgia, and we’ve got some great teams coming in this year, but I don’t think they’re quite to that level of traveling.”
The renovations to the east side of the stadium, where MU will add an upper bowl with a club level for 1,000 seats and 5,000 general admission seats, is on pace to be finished in time for the 2014 season, Hickman said, a year ahead of initial projections.
Missouri has decided to explore options for a new softball stadium to replace University Field, which was built in the early 1980s and has seen its limited capacity stretched by the team’s recent success.
MU is unsure where to build a new stadium and hasn’t started financing the project. Depending on the site, a new stadium could cost between $12 and $20 million, Hickman said.
“We’re literally busting at the seams to get people in there,” Hickman said.
Also, the MU golf facility at The Club at Old Hawthorne is getting a facelift, and just last week MU received bids to build new locker rooms, offices and other features at the Green Tennis Center.
Two years from now, Missouri and its SEC peers will fatten up with bigger slices of league revenue fed by the SEC Network, a joint venture with ESPN that’s projected to push per-school payouts into the $30 million range by some industry experts.
“It’ll give us options for resources we’ve either longed for or hope to bolster,” Hickman said. “Right now, the slate’s kind of wide open.”