The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees moved forward with the planned $160-million Razorback Stadium expansion, despite criticism from trustees that the plan will benefit only the wealthiest of Arkansas Razorback fans.
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.) So the Razorback Stadium expansion is explicitly geared toward the wealthier football fan, who expects a little pampering and a higher-end experience than a bleacher seat in the sun.
Which didn’t sit too well with trustee David Pryor, the former U.S. senator who spoke out against the expansion as being overly elitist. He was one of two votes against the project; eight other trustees voted for it. From Northwest Arkansas Online:
“This proposal is not about students; it’s not about scholarship; it’s not about keeping kids in school,” Pryor said in a speech before the board.
The proposal will be paid for in part by a $120 million bond package, Athletic Director Jeff Long said….
Before casting his vote, Gibson questioned whether thought had been given to what other expenses could be funded with the annual bond payments, to which several trustees pointed out that Athletic Department revenues typically stay within the department.
Casting a no vote is a “vote of no confidence in our chancellor, our president and our athletic director,” Trustee John Goodson said, pointing out that all three support the expansion.
The trustees will still need to approve a final plan, but it’s hard to see the project be derailed unless something very bad happens on the fundraising front. The renovations should be in place for the 2018 season.
Images courtesy University of Arkansas.
RELATED STORIES: Arkansas moves forward with Reynolds Razorback Stadium expansion