By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Cosmetic renovations are under way at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
As a result, the four “stairways to nowhere” on the east side of Missouri Southern’s football stadium soon will be gone.
Workers from Big K Concrete Sawing and Drilling began cutting Tuesday on the eight columns that extend several feet above the top row of bleachers. The columns will be cut down to approximately four feet above ground level.
“When they are leveled off, it will be a lot more uniform and clean-looking,” Lions football coach Daryl Daye said. “When I was here before (as an assistant coach), I saw it and didn’t particularly like it. I thought it sent out the wrong message. ... In talking with Jared (Bruggeman, MSSU athletics director), he had the same type feelings. .... It’s like building a house and not finishing it.
“We talked about ways to make it look better. I have a good friend who owns an environmental safety and health company in Louisiana. He came up for a visit, and he said he would be interested in helping us fix it.
“Curt Crossland of Crossland Construction came out and looked at it and said we can do this.
“A lot of people for many years wanted to see the change. I was fortunate to have Jared, who was for it, Bob Harrington (director of MSSU Physical Plant staff) is on the same page and wanted to do it. It’s an idea that has been going around for a while that is coming to fruition.”
The stadium cost $1.7 million and was completed in time for the start of the 1975 season. But it differs from the architect’s original plan.
Phase 1 had seating for about 10,000 between the 30-yard lines, and two sections could be added at each end to raise seating to 16,000. However, the proposed 5,000 seats on the east side of the field were cut in half.
Phase 2 included a locker room and weight room at the south end of the stadium, but that has yet to materialize.
“I don’t know if we ran out of money or what, but we quit building,” Jim Frazier, former MSSU football coach and athletics director, said in an interview last September. “Dr. (Leon) Billingsly (former MSSU president) is probably the only guy who knows the answer to that. His comment to me was they’ll have to finish it some day.”
There is another change to the stadium that has been completed, under the leadership of Rhonda Phillips Black, the mother of Lions defensive end Ryon Phillips.
All the steps inside the stadium have been painted yellow, just like Daye saw when he was inside Lambeau Field in Green Bay as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Bills.
“Rhonda, me and a couple of players and coaches painted every step yellow on the home side,” Daye said. “We had to leave after that, and she stayed and did the whole vistors’ side by herself. She’s a super woman.”