UA Board Grants Initial OK for Football Center Bond Issue

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees on Friday approved an intent to issue bonds for a $35 million football operations center on the Fayetteville campus.

The board met on the campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. Friday's approval paved the way for the UA Athletic Department to seek final, formal approval for the bond issue at the April board meeting.

The $35 million figure includes an estimated $24 million-$28 million for the center with $7 million set aside for construction of a raised outdoor practice field built over a parking deck that would serve the entire campus. The new center would be located south of Reynolds Razorback Stadium off of Razorback Road.

Click here to see a slideshow of renderings of what the center will look like.

UA Athletic Director Jeff Long said the 10-year financing plan would enable the athletic department to get the project started while continuing to raise private funds to pay for it.

The UA already has $12.5 million for the project. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation awarded a $10 million matching grant, and another the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation gave $2.5 million earlier this week.

Both Long and David Gearhart, chancellor of the Fayetteville campus, stressed that the football operations center is vital for the Razorback program, noting its impact on recruiting in the competitive world of Southeastern Conference football.

Under Coach Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks reached levels of success not seen in more than 30 years. The Hogs finished the regular season 10-2 and were an at-large Bowl Championship Series selection to the Sugar Bowl. Overall, the team finished the year ranked 12th in the country.

"This facility meets a number of needs for our program," Long said. "We have $12 million in cash before we even start the project. This is the right time to move forward with this project."

Long was optimistic the bond issue could be paid off in less than 10 years.

Gearhart said the project would commence "very soon." Documents submitted to the board indicated a start time of Fall 2011 and a completion date of Summer 2013.

"Our program has grown in prestige, we have a first-class coach, and all of Arkansas is excited," Gearhart said.

The football operations center is a part of a proposed $140.6 million bond issue for the Fayetteville campus. Other bond projects include the renovation of Yocum, Humphries, Pomfret, Futrall, Wilson Sharp, Darby and Walton dormitories; the renovation and expansion of Walker and Ozark academic halls; new fitness and technology centers in the Arkansas Union; construction of a new science and engineering auditorium; and an addition to Brough Commons.

Ray Winder Field Property

In other business, the board approved a UAMS recommendation to hire McClelland Consulting Engineers of Little Rock to tear down the grandstand at Ray Winder Field. The firm will convert the area to temporary parking while UAMS determes long-term plans for the property.

Ray Winder is the former home of Little Rock's minor-league baseball team, the Arkansas Travelers, and sits adjacent to the UAMS campus.

UAMS ultimately will build on the property once McClelland helps it determine the best use. UAMS spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said the best use could entail a facility to support UAMS clinical, educational or research missions.

Coaches' Salaries

The board also voted on new salaries for 19 coaches, including Razorback offensive coordinator Garrick McGee. His salary increased from $300,000 to $400,000. That doesn't include an extra $50,000 per year provided by the Razorback Foundation.