UA Board Committee OKs Athletics Master Plan

The University of Arkansas took the next step in the athletics department's master facilities plan on Thursday, when a UA board of trustees committee approved several projects, including a basketball practice facility.

The full board, meeting at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Donaghey Student Center, will vote on the projects Friday. It is expected to approve the projects.

Last year, the board approved $140 million in bonds for facilities upgrades on the Fayetteville campus that included $35 million for a new football operations center, currently under construction.

Thursday's committee vote puts the UA closer to moving forward with the following projects:

  • A basketball practice facility for the men's and women's programs. It will be located across from Bud Walton Arena on Leroy Pond Drive. Its estimated cost is between $20 million-$25 million. Arkansas is the only men's program in the Southeastern Conference without a dedicated practice facility for basketball. MAGH and Populous are lead architects; the contractor is CDI Contractors LLC of Little Rock.
  • A baseball/track indoor practice facility. Its estimated cost is $7.5 million-$9.5 million, and it will be built adjacent to the Tyson Track Center and Baum Stadium. The architect is Witsell Evans Rasco of Little Rock and contractor will be Kinco Constructors of Little Rock.
  • A student-athlete academics center, costing $18 million-$23 million. The facility will be located on Meadow next to McDonnell Field. Lead architect is Wittenberg Delony & Davidson Architects of Little Rock and the contractor is VCC of Little Rock.

Also Thursday, the board's building committee approved financing for a new, $20 million building devoted to classroom space and teaching labs at Dickson and Duncan streets and gave the go-ahead for renovation of the old campus fieldhouse into a $17 million performing arts center in the center of campus.

Chancellor David Gearhart of the Fayetteville campus told board members the new building is necessary to meet an expected short-term increase in enrollment to 28,000 students. Currently, the UA has about 24,600 enrolled, and enrollment has grown by 6,000 students since 2007, Gearhart said.

The athletics department pledged to donate $1.25 million through the life of the 30-year bond to help pay for the new facility, thanks to an expected revenue boost from the SEC's new TV deals.

Miller Boskus Lack of Fayetteville will be lead architects; Nabholz Construction Services of Conway will be the contractor.

The performing arts center will be named for Joyce and Jim Faulkner, who Wednesday pledged $6 million for the renovation. 

Lead architects will be Allison Architects of Little Rock and the general contractor will be Manhattan Construction of Springdale.

Also, Gearhart said the UA will develop 700-800 new parking spaces on the west side of Razorback Road across from McDonnell Field on property already acquired by the university. Gearhart doesn't expect student fees to be raised to help finance any of the projects, calling that possibility a "worst-case scenario."