UA OK’s issuing $36.5M in bonds

By: Evie Blad
Published: Saturday, February 2, 2013

— The University of Arkansas board of trustees approved Friday plans to issue $36.5 million in bonds to help finance the construction of three Razorbacks athletics facilities.

The projects, approved by the board in September, are an academic and dining facility for athletes, an indoor training facility for baseball and track and field, and a basketball practice facility.

Proposals put the estimated total cost of the projects between $45.75 million and $57.625 million.

The bonds will be repaid through private donations and sports revenue, Athletic Director Jeff Long said. They will have a maximum term of 20 years and a maximum interest rate of 4 percent.

Athletics leaders won’t break ground or set a construction timeline for the three new projects until “the necessary funds have been identified or raised,” athletic department spokesman Kevin Trainor said in an email, adding that officials are in “the initial stages of raising the private support to pay for these facilities.”

The three new buildings are part of the UA’s facilities master plan, a series of projects estimated to cost $320 million and take 20 to 30 years to complete. The plan was released Oct. 18, 2011.

The first set of projects in that plan included an upgrade to women’s soccer locker rooms, which has been completed, and the football operations center, which will be complete in summer 2013.

Campus leaders have said the new buildings will help attract and retain student athletes and put Razorbacks facilities on par with or ahead of other SEC institutions.

The 70,000-square-foot to 85,000-square-foot basketball practice facility is set for construction directly south of Walton Arena. It will include separate men’s and women’s gyms, locker rooms, weight rooms, coaching suites, a team lounge and a museum highlighting achievements of the basketball program.

The academic and dining facility, to be constructed off of Meadow Street to the east of John McDonnell Field, willinclude tutorial rooms; group study rooms; computer, math and learning labs; a 500-seat auditorium; a dining hall for athletes; a full-service kitchen, and staff offices.

The 45,000-square-foot baseball and track indoor training facility will be attached to the existing Randal Tyson Track Center. It will provide a space for the baseball team to practice during inclement weather and a space for indoor track and field throwing events, which are currently held at Pat Walker Pavilion, according to a project proposal.

The board also gave final approval Friday to design professionals selected by its buildings and grounds committee to explore the feasibility of a north-end expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Those firms - Populous, Polk Stanley Wilcox and Flintco - will create preliminary designs and finalize a cost estimate so that UA can determine if there is sufficient demand for premium and club seating and interest from athletics donors to finance the project.

If UA leaders determine they wish to proceed with the project, the board would have to give its approval before construction could begin.

Sports, Pages 21 on 02/02/2013