Bret Bielema Sold on UA's Athletic Facilities

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 12:00 am  

Bielema got a look at all planned projects at Arkansas, including a $20 million to $25 million basketball practice facility, $7.75 million to $9.6 million track/baseball indoor facility and a dining/academic facility that will cost between $18 million and $23 million to complete. Those three — with an emphasis on the dining/academic center — will most immediately follow the football facility.

Timelines for those projects have yet to be defined. Arkansas will need to raise funds — a capital campaign for athletic facilities is in the works — and a firm budget for the facilities must be set. Funding for the projects will come from a mix of private gifts, department revenue and bonds.

Coaches and administrators are currently in the programming phase of the basketball, baseball/track and academic support facility. Every few weeks they meet with architects, contractors and Matt Trantham, senior associate athletic director for internal operations, to discuss how to fit needs into the budget.

“We want ‘wow.’ We want what we can use to recruit,” said Matt Trantham, senior associate athletic director for internal operations. “But we don’t want to sacrifice functionality, because that would just be a waste of resources.”

To Bielema, the Arkansas football center is as impressive as it is practical. He can sell athletes on choosing the Razorbacks, and then use it to make them better once they get to campus.

“I believe in player development,” Bielema said during his introductory press conference. “If a player comes in good in year one, you want him great by year four. … That facility is going to allow us to do those things.”

New Coach Will Have Limited Input

Former University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino was instrumental in making the football operations center a reality. Petrino was involved in much of the planning, in areas as broad as overall facility design and as detailed as furniture in specific rooms.

Construction on the $40.3 million project is so far along at this point — all concrete and steel work are complete — that new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema will have a limited say in how the center is designed.

There are a few details he’ll be able to oversee, including graphics and other finishing touches inside the complex. Bielema and his new staff can also have a say in furniture and layout inside the meeting rooms, though any major components are already set.

Any major changes would impact the budget and timeline for completion of the 80,000-SF structure.

“The timing is such that it doesn’t allow a whole lot of stop and wait,” Trantham said. “We’ve got to proceed with most of what we’re doing. … Almost everything — the layout, where rooms are located — that’s not changing. It’s moving forward and has to in order to hit our timeline.”

Arkansas football is expected to begin operating out of the facility this summer.



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