by Chris Bahn
Posted 10/27/2010 10:21 pm
Updated 4 years ago
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas unveiled plans Wednesday for an 80,000-square-feet football operations facility to be built south of Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Athletic director Jeff Long said the project would cost an estimated $24-35 million. A $10 million “challenge grant” has been secured from the Reynolds Foundation. Another $2 million in gifts are earmarked for the project, which will include office space, locker rooms, football museum, study halls and athletic training rooms.
Once funding is secured and the Board of Trustees has signed off on the project, Long said construction would be almost “immediately.” Approximately 18 months would be needed to complete the project, though Long stressed the time and finances are merely rough estimates at this point.
Currently, the Razorbacks practice fields sit where the new facility will be located. Practice fields will be moved to Lot 67, south of the Walker Pavilion. Long stressed parking will not be lost, however. The practice fields will be “elevated” above the existing parking lot.
[To view a news release on the university's master plan for the football facilities, along with more renderings and maps, click here to download the PDF. (Note: This is a large file.) Or you can download individual files and data at the official University of Arkansas Athletics Department site here.]
Long said the facility will be funded entirely with private funds. This will not likely include money raised through the RSVP seating priority plan, which will generate an estimated $5 million. The majority of the funding will have to be in place before final approval is sought form the Board of Trustees and construction can begin.
Coach Bobby Petrino said Wednesday he is excited to see the process begin. He’s been active in lobbying for and planning proposed changes to the current football operations setup.
“We’re excited about the plans to address the needs of our football program and the opportunity to build a new facility,” Petrino said on the SEC coaches teleconference. Petrino also discussed the plans on his radio show.
"This shows we have the vision and commitment to build a championship team," Petrino said.
Building south of the stadium instead of renovating the existing football facilities serves a variety of purposes. Arkansas will be able to house its administrative staff in the 64,692-square-foot Broyles Athletic Complex, rather than in three different facilities on campus. Also, there is a possibility that Arkansas could expand seating to include the northeast corner of the stadium, which is currently open and not bowled in.
Players will still use the Broyles Complex for game days. They'll maintain a football locker room for the to use so it can continue to enter the stadium from the north end zone through the 'A' to "maintain tradition," Long said.
The football operations center is the “first priority” in a master plan for all athletic facilities, Long said. Other projects on the wish list for the future include an academic center, a combination indoor track throwing area/baseball practice facility, improvements to Baum Stadium and other existing structures.
A basketball practice facility is also a possibility and Long mentioned the possibility Barnhill Arena could be “brought down” if the cost to operate the historic facility continues to rise. A new 5,000-seat arena would be built in place of Barnhill for volleyball and gymnastics.
The UA Board of Trustees gave the OK for the athletic department to seek architectural renderings of a “football operations” center when approving Populous Inc.’s Request for Quotation (RFQ) for an athletic facilities master plan in January.
Little Rock firm Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects is charged with overseeing the football facility portion of the master plan. Fayetteville’s Modus Studios is also involved in the master planning process.
Lead firm Populous Inc., which has done work for nine of 12 SEC schools including Arkansas, has a wide range of athletic facilities experience. Populous has overseen renovation or new construction on football complexes at such schools as the University of Connecticut, South Florida and Virginia Tech.
Football has seen a number of upgrades since Petrino was hired. First came the purchase of $700,000 in video equipment. Field turf was added to Reynolds Razorback Stadium at the cost of $1.1 million. Graphics have been added throughout the team meeting space, and additional video upgrades were made to the football strength and conditioning center.