The University of Arkansas is taking the first steps toward a Razorback Stadium expansion after the Board of Trustees approved plans to solicit donations and firm up pricing for the estimated $160 million project.
The plan calls for closing off the currently open north end zone and adding 3,200 seats to the home of the Razorbacks, as well as club seats, loge boxes and additional suites. It would put capacity at 75,000.
Razorback Stadium was last expanded in 2001, when the south end zone was enclosed and a second deck was added to the east side of the stadium, as well as luxury boxes.
The issue for the Razorback athletic department, per research: the lack of premium spaces in the stadium. Razorback games aren’t selling out, except in one prime demographic: the high end. In 2015, all 134 stadium suites sold out, as did 98 percent of the club seating. (Not unusual in the college world these days.) The expansion, which could be finished by the 2018 football season if fundraising goes well, would add to the premium inventory. From Arkansas Online:
In 2013, the university went a step further by calling for a feasibility study on enclosing the north end-zone and a market study for seating and amenities. Just more than 7,000 Razorback Foundation donors, football season ticket-holders and occasional football ticket-buyers were surveyed for the study, which among other things gauged interest in a new north end-zone club seat.
Most respondents — about a third in each of the four groups — said they were “possibly interested” in club seating depending on the location and amenities and before prices were introduced, the study shows. Nearly half of the respondents said they were not likely to lease a north end-zone club seat at a $1,500 annual donation, excluding the cost of game tickets. That amount would be among the lower club seat prices in the Southeastern Conference, according to the study.
Preliminary estimates project the addition of 2,297 club seats, 384 suite seats and 368 box seats.
The project includes a new game-day locker room and training room, along with new suites, box seats, club seats and club areas, and new entrances. The box seats would consist of a cluster of four to eight seats separated from others by a partition. The new seating area will connect the concourse to the east and west walkways, improving the stadium’s safety and security systems, [AD Jeff Long] said Wednesday.
Though the total cost of the project is projected to be $160 million, the plan assumes the Athletic Department raises $40 million, with the school bonding $120 million. This concerns trustee and former U.S. Sen. David Pryor, who abstained:
“This is the beginning of a public discussion,” Pryor said. “A bond issue is a debt of the University of Arkansas. It is a debt of the people of Arkansas, and ultimately, if something goes wrong, who’s responsible? And that’s the people. That’s why we’re trustees — to examine these issues and to examine the transparency, to examine them with everything that we can, to show due diligence. I hope that we show equal due diligence that you have shown in bringing this issue to our attention today.”
One potential side effect to this project: the agreement to play a game annually at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. That agreement ends in 2018.
Images courtesy University of Arkansas.