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Lance Harter, and his two national championships, waited patiently. And waited and waited.

His waiting is about to pay off. Harter is the highly successful coach of women’s cross-country and track and field at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; in his 27 years he has led the Razorbacks to two national titles, 29 top 10 national finishes and 32 SEC titles.

All the while, his athletes dressed almost on top of one another. When they trained at the university’s indoor arena, they stashed their equipment bags and belongings in prime spots along a wall or under the bleachers like high school students in a P.E. class.

In November, the university system’s board of trustees approved three athletic facility construction projects for the Fayetteville campus. Two of them involved the teams coached by Harter and men’s coach Chris Bucknam.

The Tyson Indoor Track Complex, opened in 2000, has hosted several conference and national championships and was hailed as the world’s fastest indoor track. It is in line to get an upgrade estimated to cost between $15 million and $20 million; on Thursday, Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson announced his family would donate $6 million toward the renovation.

The outdoor track facility, which was completely rebuilt and opened in 1998 as John McDonnell Field, is getting an $8 million to $10 million makeover.

“It was always, ‘Well, you have to wait for finances,’” Harter said. “One of the things that changed really, really rapidly was when Hunter Yurachek came on board as the athletic director and he immediately prioritized three facilities. They have followed through with ‘Let’s get this going.’ It is nice to be heard. It is nice to be prioritized.”

The third project is a $20 million to $25 million clubhouse for the baseball team at Baum Stadium, which opened in 1996. On Dec. 3, the university announced that the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation had pledged $5 million toward the Baseball Performance Center, as the clubhouse is named officially.

Construction Kickoff
The university outlined its facility upgrade plans in 2011 in its Master Plan. Final plans for each of the upgrades will take shape after a kickoff meeting this month with all involved parties, Senior Associate Athletic Director Matt Trantham said.

Trantham, who oversees all UA athletic facilities, said architects and general contractors for each project have been chosen and approved. Negotiations are either final or nearly so, he said. The university chose a national architect for each project along with a local on-site architect partner and a local general contractor who will act as construction manager.

The initial plan was a basic strategic outlook: like a family deciding to buy a new car. Now that the plans are advancing, Trantham said, specifics will be determined — like choosing make and model and deciding which options to add.

The baseball clubhouse is to be built on about 40,000 SF beyond the stadium’s right field fence. It will include locker rooms, meeting rooms, training and weight rooms and other features for coach Dave Van Horn, who has led the Razorbacks to four College World Series, including a runner-up finish in 2018.

“You really just conceptualize where would you put something and how big can it be? It doesn’t get into the weeds like we’ve done now,” Trantham said. “Even in the Master Plan, we didn’t envision the clubhouse being where it is probably going to be now. The landscape has changed quite a bit since 2011.

“A clubhouse with all the pieces we are talking about wasn’t what we called a need or what we were competing against. We may get into this project now and start designing, and we may come up with something completely different.”

Trantham said upgrading indoor and outdoor facilities — which Bucknam and Harter have been requesting for some time — wasn’t even in the 2011 Master Plan, which was developed under former Athletic Director Jeff Long, who was fired in November 2017.

The indoor facility is scheduled to get a major renovation in seating and layout along with the addition of a suitable locker room and training room.

The outdoor facility is getting a performance center with locker, weight and training rooms adjacent to the south end of the field. The indoor track athletes now have to commute to the outdoor facility, which has the only training room for more than 100 male and female athletes.

“We have the same number of athletes as the football team and we’re crammed into a closet,” Harter said. “We will have locker rooms for the first time. There will be some privacy for the athletes. Our trainers operate out of a hallway. It will be a tremendous upgrade for all our athletes.”

Buckets of Money
Trantham said the $43 million to $55 million in project costs won’t take away from any nonathletic university needs. The money will come from gifts like the $5 million baseball donation, as well as operational and privately raised funds. Committing money to building a baseball clubhouse won’t, for example, prevent the science department from paying professors or building labs, he said.

“Those are two separate buckets of money,” Trantham said. “Every facility we upgrade or build new, those are zero dollars taken away from the institution and what the institutional needs would be. We continue to give $3 million annually to the university” through parking and camp revenues.

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The university expanded Reynolds Razorback Stadium with a $160 million upgrade recently, and Trantham said Arkansas is fortunate because its other venues — Baum Stadium, Walton Arena for basketball and softball’s Bogle Park — are of showcase quality and already paid for. In the SEC, it is considered vital to have not only showcase venues but also first-rate amenities to compete against the other universities that are spending big money on the same things.

Bogle Park and Walton are next on the list for upgrades. Bogle needs more seating, and Walton, which opened to fanfare in 1994, is showing its age in some spots and needs 21st century improvements, Trantham said.

“We’re fortunate that Baum Stadium was ahead of its time,” said Trantham, who then ran down a lengthy list of SEC schools that have built new baseball venues or are renovating existing ones.

“In just the sport of baseball, we were fortunate in the foresight of the folks before us who saw what Baum Stadium needed to be, so we are ahead of the game there. Now we are catching up in [amenities]. We are not having to catch up as much as some folks. We ask, ‘What’s happening around our league, what’s happening around the country and how are we keeping up?’”

University of Arkansas Athletics Projects

Baseball Clubhouse Indoor Rrack Renovation Outdoor Track Clubhouse
National Architect HKS Inc.
Kansas City, Missouri
Los Angeles
Local Architect WER Architects/Planners
Little Rock
Polk Stanley Wilcox
Little Rock & Fayetteville
General Contractor Kinco
Springdale & Little Rock
CDI Contractors
Little Rock
Estimated Cost $20 million-$25 million $15 million-$20 million $8 million-$10 million
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