Facilities Wish List Unveiled
Arkansas announced its athletic facilities master plan Tuesday, a series of renovation and expansion projected to cost up to $327.95 million.
The highlights of the plan include a basketball practice facility, an athletic academic and dining facility, expansion to Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the Football Operations Center – a facility the University will break ground for on Nov. 4.
“We have an obligation to plan for the future and the Athletic Facilities Master Plan enables us to move forward in the best interests of meeting the needs of our student-athletes, coaches, donors and fans,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said. “The plan is an ambitious wish list to address facility needs for all 19 of our sports over the next five, 15 and 30 years.
“It is the next step to build our program and maintain competitiveness in the Southeastern Conference and nationally.”
The plan outlined long-term improvements to existing facilities or new facilities for each of the 19 sports.
There is no timetable for completion of the plan or any of the included steps, aside from the Football Operations Center. The plan could take 20 to 30 years to finish, Long said.
“We do not have a timeline, other than what we’ve done with our football center,” Long said. “The cost estimates are just that. They’re estimates based on square footages, based on ranges, based on similar facilities at our competitors.”
If the plan was completed in 20 years, the athletic department would need to spend $16.3975 million per year on facilities upgrades. The department has spent an average of $18 million annually on upgrades and renovation the last 11 years.
“Certainly as you look at the overall total cost of the plan it is a significant investment of more than $320 million,” Long said. “However, when you put that within context over the long range of the plan, the financial commitment to our facilities is in line with what we have spent in the past 11 years.
“We will employ the same approach we have traditionally to help pay for the projects, including utilizing major gifts, Razorback Foundation funds, revenues from ticket sales and SEC revenue distribution.”
The basketball practice facility and the academic and dining center have top priority after completion of the operations center, Long said.
The practice facility will cost between $20-25 million and will bring the program up to speed with the rest of the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas is currently the only school in the SEC, including new member Texas A&M, without a separate practice facility.
“I’ve spent a great deal of time over at least the last two years expressing the need we have for this facility,” Long said. “We are in need of this facility and we hope that we can move forward with this in the not-too-distant future.”
The 70,000-85,000-square-foot facility will include two practice courts, men’s and women’s locker rooms, a weight room, training facilities and coaches offices.
“The addition of the basketball practice facility would give our student-athletes a place to really develop and refine their skill level,” men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson said in a statement. “Not only do we have one of the top arenas in the country, but with all the amenities of a practice facility, our student-athletes would have access to one of the best training facilities.”
The facility will be built south of Bud Walton Arena, across Leroy Pond Road, but there is no timetable for beginning construction.
“I would like to move forward as quickly as possible, but, again, funding is the biggest piece,” Long said. “If we had someone very interested in that project and they stepped forward with a leadership gift, a significant gift, then we can put together funding to make that happen sooner rather than later.
“If we decided today we wanted to do a basketball practice facility, we’d be going through a process more than a year of getting approval before you’d ever break ground.”
Future expansion to Bud Walton Arena would provide suites and food courts behind both baskets, while expanding the concourse on the east, west and south sides of the arena. The renovation, along with the building of the practice facility, would allow for the University to better host non-athletic events, including concerts.
“We certainly have the call from our University and our students to try to host more concerts and events in Bud Walton Arena,” Long said. “We’ve done a convergence study to allow us to widen the tunnels … to get three or four semis down for unloading and reloading after the event.”
The academic and dining center will be built northwest of Pomfret Hall, south of the HPER, replacing the Bogle Academic Center on the east side of Razorback Stadium.
“The Bogle Academic Center, while trendsetting when it was built, we’ve simply outgrown it,” Long said.
Down the line, renovation is slated to bowl in the north end zone of Razorback Stadium, while maintaining the Broyles Center.
The new plans call for an additional 5,000 seats, indoor suites and the inclusion of field-level suites that would create an atmosphere reminiscent of Dallas’ Cowboys Stadium.
“Maintaining the tradition of running through the ‘A’ was very important to us,” Long said. “We borrowed an idea from our friend Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys. We will have the team dress (in the Broyles Center), the gameday locker room. As they come down to enter the field, they’d come down through a club area and a suite area, down through a suite area and onto the field, through the ‘A’.”
“We think that we have some fans that would be very interested and excited in that concept. Our student-athletes and coaches are excited about the concept as well.”
One renovation that will take effect in the near future is an expansion to the scoreboard in Reynolds Razorback Stadium, slated to be in place “
The current scoreboard was erected in 2002, before the wave of HD screens. The scoreboard renovation will make the screen bigger and will be a “multi-million” dollar project.
“We have been budgeting and preparing for that for several years,” Long said. “It is our plan to change it. We plan to do it unless there’s some unforeseen circumstances that prohibit us from doing it.”
The master plan could result in tearing down Barnhill Arena – the former basketball arena and current home for gymnastics and volleyball – to build a 5,000-seat “competition venue” for volleyball and gymnastics, Long said.
“Any time you deal with a historic building on campus, like a Barnhill, it’s a tough decision,” Long said.