UA System Board Gives Final OK to $160M Stadium Expansion

(University of Arkansas Athletic Department)
(University of Arkansas Athletic Department)
(University of Arkansas Athletic Department)

The University of Arkansas System board of trustees on Thursday gave final approval to a $160 million expansion of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

The board voted to approve $120 million in bonds for the project, which would increase the stadium's seating capacity from 72,000 to about 77,000. The expansion would be complete in time for the 2018 football season.

Trustees David Pryor of Little Rock and C.C. "Cliff" Gibson III of Monticello voted against the expansion. 

Pryor, a former U.S. Senator and Arkansas governor, has been a vocal critic of the plan. Before a previous vote related to the project in June, Pryor said the expansion amounts to a "monumental commitment of resources" that, in effect, puts the stadium expansion — and not its students — as the university's highest priority. He cited the "nuclear arms race of college football" and said the expansion "defies common sense and fairness."

The project also drew opposition from Tyson Foods Inc. Chairman John Tyson and four other former UA trustees, who questioned the expansion in an op-ed published this summer by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

According to The Associated Press, during a committee meeting Wednesday, Pryor questioned how the bonds would be paid if the football team should "lose three or four games" and fans stop attending. Athletic Director Jeff Long said fans have shown strong support even during less than successful seasons.

In addition to approving the bonds, the board this week voted to retain Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard PLLC of Little Rock as bond counsel; Stephens Inc. and Crews & Associates Inc., both of Little Rock, as co-senior managing underwriters; and Raymond James & Co. Inc. of St. Petersburg, Florida, and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC of New York, as co-managers for the bond sale.

More: Download the resolutions: The bond issue | underwriters | counsel

The UA board in January approved preliminary work on the project, which will redesign the north end zone, including the Frank Broyles Athletic Center, adding seating that includes club seats and lodge boxes. In April, the board approved CDI Contractors LLC of Little Rock as the project's general contractor.

In a proposal (PDF) approved by the board in June, the athletic department outlined how it will fund the expansion:

  • $10 million from the athletic department for design and pre-construction.
  • $10 million in unrestricted reserves from the Razorback Foundation.
  • $20 million in donation commitments for new suites at the stadium, delivered via the foundation.
  • $120 million bond issue, amortized over 20 years "entirely from athletic revenues." 

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