Aging Hearnes Center May Be Destined for Changes

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COLUMBIA - The Hearnes Center is a 41-year-old building that serves many more purposes, other than just holding sporting events. But Mizzou's Athletic Director Mike Alden says the building is aging and will need a change in the coming years.

It sits on the corner of Stadium Boulevard and was built in 1972 with support from Gov. Warren Hearnes.

The building used to house men's and women's basketball as well as classes for college courses. Now it's home to Mizzou volleyball, wrestling, gymnastic meets and offices.

But at 41-years-old, the Hearnes Center is more than over the hill and Alden sees new things in place for the future.

"There could be a day at some point where we look at it and say it might need to be replaced with another type of facility," Alden said.

The current athletic department may want a change, but others see it as unnecessary.

Mizzou great Norm Stewart, who coached men's basketball at the school from 1967-1999, and won 634 games in his 32 seasons as a head coach, said there is more to the Hearnes Center than just the aging parts inside.

He said replacing the center would make "Warren Hearnes spin in his grave."

"He was such a factor in getting that," Stewart said.

One of Stewart's players on the 1976 team, who later coach alongside Stewart said agrees with Stewart's view.

Kim Anderson said he hopes the Hearnes Center isn't torn down. "You know, I remember when they built Mizzou Arena. I always thought, well that's a really neat arena, but I always said, man, I'd hate to leave the Hearnes Center."

Members of the Antlers, an organized group of rowdy fans, said the idea of replacing the center is unpleasant.

"I think there are other remedies to tearing down," said John Martin, who was an Antler during the 1993-1994 season. "They may cost a little money, but certainly not as much as rebuilding something that other schools in the SEC don't have, which is two basketball courts."

"We're special," Martin said. "So we should keep that something special as long as we can.

Brian Grieb, a 1994 Antler, said, "I would be disappointed. I mean there are a lot of great memories here."

Current coaches said the center is a winning site.

"I don't know what our win percentage is here, but it's pretty high," Missouri volleyball coach Wayne Kreklow said. "I wouldn't trade this for anything."

"It's one of the best venues in the country, really," he said.

The center's winning reputation isn't the only thing that's valuable. So is the land it sits on.

"That's a very visible area within our campus structure," Alden said. "It's a very visible area within Columbia and Mid-Missouri, and so you want to make sure that you're maximizing the exposure of that location too."

Alden says the building is not energy efficient. In 2012, utilities at the Hearnes Center cost $797,104. In the same year, utilities at Mizzou Arena cost $681,243.

"I would suggest that from a square footage standpoint, it's more expensive to operate the Hearnes Center in a lot of different ways than it would be Mizzou Arena," Alden said. "And, that's not just utilities. That has to do with the maintenance of the facility. I think when things break down in the Hearnes Center because it's so old, it's difficult to find those replacement parts and the upkeep in the maintenance of an older building is usually a little bit more expensive than a newer one."

Joplin Schools Director of Construction Mike Johnson, who dealt with the construction of Joplin High School after the tornado, said he would be surprised if it cost less than seven figures to tear down the Hearnes Center. He said the project to tear down Joplin High School totaled more than $1 million.

If the Hearnes Center has asbestos, that would have to be removed first, an expensive proposition. That cost might be offset, however, by the value of salvagable materials such as steel and copper within the building.

If the building is demolished, there are construction costs to think about. If parking or another building lot were to take its place, the ground must be filled so there would be no sinkholes in the future.

Alden said detailed discussions about costs are in near future, but he does know it would be very pricey to just renovate the building.

"The costliness of trying to do a renovation of a facility of that magnitude, and that girth, and that size, and the age would be significant," Alden said. "I think you have to take a look from a business plan and standpoint. What are the cost effectiveness of maintaining and renovating versus providing something different there."

Without the Hearnes Center, Alden said volleyball, wrestling, and gymnastics would move to a smaller more energy efficient Olympic arena. Indoor track and field would also have its own arena.

MU would still have two build these two arenas after Hearnes is torn down. The Olympic arenas would be constructed elsewhere, and the valuable Hearnes Center land could be used for something like a campus welcome center. Alden said the University of Missouri does not have a true center to welcome guests who are visiting the school.

"In all likelihood, 41 years from now, the Hearnes Center won't be here," Alden said. "So, we believe that probably is reality."

"It's probably in our best interest to be taking a look into that now," he said. " What does the future hold? How can we be able to plan the best use of that area? Does that include the Hearnes Center or doesn't include the Hearnes Center."

Stewart said it would tough to see the center go.  "I've seen my high school torn down and that's tough, a lot of memories in that building."

Many fans may find it hard to say goodbye to the Hearnes Center, but they would have many winning basketball memories to hold onto.