Laurie family donated $25M for project

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The University of Missouri is naming its
new basketball arena after the 22-year-old daughter of the Wal-Mart
heirs who donated $25 million toward its construction.

Paige Sports Arena was named for Elizabeth Paige Laurie at the
request of her parents, Bill and Nancy Laurie, said the spokesman
for Missouri's athletic department, Chad Moller, on Friday.

The university said Paige Laurie had never been enrolled there.
The Laurie family and its representatives did not return calls for
comment Friday from The Associated Press.

Nancy Laurie is the daughter of the late Bud Walton, a
co-founder of the Wal-Mart empire with his late brother, Sam
Walton. The Lauries live in Columbia, as did the Walton brothers in
their youth.

"We are grateful for the Lauries' generosity and we are
delighted to name the building for their daughter, Paige," Richard
Wallace, chancellor of the Columbia campus, said in a statement.

The arena name is subject to approval from the university's
governing Board of Curators, which did not have the matter on the
agenda for its April 1-2 meeting as of Friday, said spokesman Joe

The $75 million arena is scheduled for completion Oct. 1, in
time for the next men's basketball season.

The Lauries' $25 million gift came with long strings, including
naming rights for the 15,000-seat arena and extensive influence
about its design and construction, along with perks including a
luxury suite with catering.

Public money is paying for most of the new arena in the form of
$35 million in revenue bonds approved by lawmakers. The bonds are
to be repaid over time with revenues generated by the arena. The
university athletic department has raised another $15 million in
private donations.

"As supporters of education and athletics, we are proud of our
association with the University of Missouri. As parents, we are
very proud of our daughter, Paige. So we could not be happier that
the university would combine those two important parts of our lives
in naming this new facility the Paige Sports Arena," Bill and
Nancy Laurie said in a statement. Paige Laurie is their only child.

Bill Laurie owns the St. Louis Blues professional hockey team
and the team's home venue, the Savvis Center. His management
company is called Paige Sports Entertainment.

The family has also donated money in the past to the Tiger
Scholarship Fund in the athletic department, and they endowed the
E. Paige Laurie Professorship for the Equine Center at the
veterinary school on the Columbia campus.

Bud Walton and his older brother Sam, who died in 1992, were
Missouri natives who opened the first Wal-Mart Discount City in
Rogers, Ark., in 1962. Bud Walton, who died in March 1995, was
senior vice president and a director of the empire that became the
world's largest retailer.

At the time of his death, 73-year-old Bud Walton was ranked by
Forbes magazine as the 83rd richest American. He donated $15
million toward construction of Arkansas' 19,200-seat arena, which
opened in November 1993.

Bill Laurie said his family insisted on getting in writing the
conditions for the Missouri arena gift. He cited a "bad
experience" at Arkansas, in which the university sold Bud Walton's
skybox after his death without consulting his heirs.

At Missouri, the conditions included a 780-square-foot luxury
suite at midcourt with a bathroom, kitchen and free catering,
excluding alcohol. The family is also guaranteed the use of a
second, centrally located "standard" suite for eight events each
year "without any restriction as to events." The university
agreed to give the Lauries six courtside seats of their choice for
all arena events, "to be selected first before any other selection
of tickets or assignment of tickets is made."

The deal gave the Lauries naming rights to the arena for four
years from its opening, and precludes any competitors of businesses
in which the Lauries "own a substantial interest" -- notably
Wal-Mart, in which they own large amounts of stock -- from having
any placement of advertising or naming rights in the new arena.

It also barred the university, without the prior written consent
of the Lauries, from building, placing or maintaining anything in
the new arena "that will in any way provide any recognition of,
dedication to or notoriety for any current or former athlete,
administrator, coach or athletic director of the university," with
the exception of moving the current Missouri Sports Hall of Fame
display from the Hearnes Center to the new arena.

Bill Laurie had for some time been publicly noncommittal about
honoring former basketball coach Norm Stewart in the new arena
because of what were believed to be strained relations between
them. The floor in Missouri's current home venue, the Hearnes
Center, is named the Norm Stewart Court, honoring the man who
compiled a 634-333 record in 32 seasons at Missouri, producing
eight Big Eight championships and six Big Eight tournament

But on March 7, Wallace surprised Stewart with a halftime
announcement that the Lauries had agreed to name the new arena
court after the retired coach, as well. In that game, the Tigers
played their last scheduled game in the 32-year-old Hearnes Center,
losing to archrival Kansas.