Board committee OK’s design firms

By: Evie Blad
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long (left) and Donald Pederson, vice chancellor for finance and administration, answer questions concerning expansion plans to Reynolds Razorback Stadium at a meeting of the UA board of trustees Thursday.
Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long (left) and Donald Pederson, vice chancellor for finance and administration, answer questions concerning expansion plans to Reynolds Razorback Stadium at a meeting of the UA board of trustees Thursday.

— A possible north-end expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville cleared a hurdle Thursday when a committee of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees approved architecture and construction firms for the project.

The firms will create designs and cost estimates for the project and complete a “market analysis” to determine if demand for additional “premium seating” in the stadium is sufficient to cover its cost, Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart told the board.

The expansion will only proceed if the UA “determines that the outcome of the analysis is favorable for expansion and only with approval of campus administration and the board of trustees,” he said.

The expansion site under consideration is the north end zone, where the Broyles Athletic Center and a video board connect to the stadium.

Preliminary cost estimates show the 242,000- to 296,000-square-foot expansion could cost between $78 million and $95 million. Those estimates could change as design professionals create plans for the project and determine how to address construction challenges, such as working around existing structures and locating utilities, Gearhart said.

The expansion would include new “field-level amenities,” including an end zone club and concessions for patrons of club seating and suites, a project proposal distributed to board members said. It would also include a renovation of the Broyles Center, a new main entrance plaza, wider concourses to connect the east and west sides of the stadium, additional club seating and some additional standard seating, the proposal said.

The last major project at Reynolds Razorback Stadium came before the 2001 season, a major expansion that enclosed the south end zone, upgraded the press box, added suites and expanded seating capacity from 51,000 to 72,000, which makes Arkansas’ football facility the 26th in the nation and ninth in the SEC in capacity.

Athletic Director Jeff Long said he’s heard “anecdotal support” that there is adequate demand for additional club seating to help finance the project.

“We’ve had strong continued demand for suites, and we’ve had strong demand for club seats,” he said. “But we want the professionals to tell us if the indicators are in place for a stadium expansion.”

The trustees’ buildings and grounds committee approved hiring Kansas City, Mo., firm Populous and Arkansas firm Polk Stanley Wilcox to design the project. They approved hiring Springdale firm Flintco to work as construction manager and general manager on the proposed expansion.

The full board, present for the committee discussion Thursday, will consider final approval of the design contracts today.

Trustee David Pryor - noting the potential to spend nearly $100 million on the project - asked in the “cost benefit analysis” used to determine if it would be feasible to expand the stadium would assume the current number of games that are played in Fayetteville would continue after the expansion is completed.

Long said the UA will assume ticket sales for five games a year, which is the number played in Fayetteville most years. The feasibility study will take four to six months, he said.

UA officials said the stadium expansion would be funded through premium seat ticket sales, private fundraising and athletic department reserves.

“After you win the national championship next year, will that be a factor” that could support expansion? Trustee John Goodson asked.

“We’ll have to expand the upper deck,” Long said.

The proposed expansion was included as part of Arkansas’ facilities master plan, a series of projects estimated to cost $320 million and take 20 to 30 years to complete, which was released Oct. 18, 2011.

Next year, the UA is scheduled to open its $35 million football operations center, which was also part of the master plan.

Sports, Pages 21 on 02/01/2013

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