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Great Southern Bank gets naming rights to former JQH Arena after $5.5 million donation

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 10:39 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 6:42 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Great Southern Bank gets the naming rights to the former JQH Arena after a recent donation to the MSU Foundation.

Missouri State University will rename the venue as the Great Southern Bank Arena. The naming rights, which were confirmed in a closed session among MSU officials earlier this week, take effect immediately.

MSU President Clif Smart and leaders from the foundation announced the $5.5 million gift from Great Southern Bank will pay down a portion of the bond that funded the arena.

ANNOUNCEMENT:

“Great Southern Bank has given to all areas of the university,” said MSU President Clif Smart. “They are a phenomenal partner in supporting academics, scholarships and athletics, and we are grateful for their leadership in the community.”

“Missouri State is a pillar in southwest Missouri and beyond, providing our communities significant educational, cultural, recreational and economic opportunities. The prospect of adding the Great Southern name to the arena was met with great enthusiasm and interest by our team,” said Great Southern Bank President and CEO Joe Turner.

Missouri State University shared the following renderings of the signage:

Rendering of the signage of Great Southern Bank Arena.
Rendering of the signage of Great Southern Bank Arena. (KY3)

Headquartered in Springfield, Great Southern started in 1923 and currently has over 100 offices in 11 states and $5.4 billion in assets.

Turner grew up as a Missouri State Bears fan. As he looked up at the new signage at the arena on Thursday that now bears his company’s name?

“It’s a bit surreal,” he said with a smile. “But it’s exciting. It’s really true that this is a gathering place for families and friends to come together and celebrate graduations, concerts and basketball games. It is a wonderful thing for our name to be up there.”

The new name has been a long time coming after years of setbacks and legal wranglings. The 11,000 seat, $59 million facility was completed in 2008 and named JQH Arena for Springfield businessman John Q. Hammons, joining the many other buildings and venues with his name on it.

“Mr. Hammons started his gift for the arena’s construction,” said Brent Dunn, the Executive Director of the MSU Foundation that secures donations for the university. “Then through his estate we were getting annual payments.”

But after Hammons died in 2013, his hotel company declared bankruptcy and Hammons estate was taken over by a New York-based holding company. Missouri State and the holding company would wind up in a legal battle over what Hammons’ trust still owed on the debt payments and the university would settle for less than half of the $22 million they were originally supposed to receive.

But the settlement also allowed MSU to pursue new naming-rights for the arena to generate more revenue. In June 2019, the university announced that the arena would no longer carry the “JQH” moniker and a new sponsor would be found.

But then came COVID-19, which put the naming right process on hold.

“It’s not fair to ask a company to put its name on something that’s shuttered, right?” Smart pointed out. “I mean for a year almost nothing went on here and then for a second year there was very limited engagement here. So we really needed to get through the pandemic before we re-engaged with Great Southern.”

The school also visited with other individuals and companies, but ultimately chose Great Southern.

“They were our number one target from day one,” Smart said.

“They support other things besides athletics,” added Dunn. “Academics, performing arts, our West Plains campus. Great Southern Bank just made sense because of their past experience with us as a great partner for the 41 years we’ve had the foundation.”

Currently Missouri State pays out about $3.6 million a year on the arena’s debt, which is scheduled to be paid-in-full in 2032.

“We’re going to be in this building for decades and decades because to build something like this today would be well over $100 million,” Dunn said. “That’s a big chunk of change.”

And Great Southern’s $5.5 million naming-rights payment will make a big difference.

“So as we sit here today, we owe about $30 million on a $59 million project,” Smart said. “That is a manageable debt that we will pay off on-time and on-schedule. But this payment certainly contributes to our ability to do that. It’s a relief to have all the many issues associated with this resolved.”

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