Arkansas Razorbacks news from the staff of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Campaign targets athletic facilities
An artist's rendering shows a proposed basketball practice facility to be located on the University of Arkansas campus on Leroy Pond Drive, between Bogle Park and The Gardens.
FAYETTEVILLE The University of Arkansas athletics department unveiled an initiative Monday intended to raise funds for three building projects.
The "Never Yield" campaign will provide monetary assistance for a basketball practice facility, dual workout facility for baseball and track & field, and a student-athlete academic and dining center.
“Never Yield is an opportunity to show the rest of the country our desire to compete and win in all aspects of intercollegiate athletics, “UA athletics director Jeff Long said. “Our fight song proclaims that ‘Arkansas will never yield,’ and that embodies our approach to achieving success on the athletic fields, in the classroom and in our community.
"Never Yield also represents our program’s unwavering commitment to providing our student-athletes with the facilities and resources they need to reach their fullest potential through intercollegiate athletics. Appropriately, the first initiative of Never Yield is targeted at securing that support.”
The UA Board of Trustees approved $36.5 million in bonds earlier this year to help finance the construction of the facilities. Proposed costs for those three facilities are between $45 million and $58 million, according to estimates.
All were proposed as part of the UA's master plan for athletic facilities unveiled in 2011. Ground hasn't been broken on any of the three projects, though Long said earlier this year he hopes to see at least one built by the end of next year.
"They are the things our coaches need," Long said in May. "They aren't luxury items. They are necessities to win and compete in this day and age. We're behind in this area and I'm committed to catching us up."
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn has been adamant about the need for a baseball practice facility for several years. Cold and wet weather often keeps his team from practicing during the spring. The baseball team has used the football program's indoor facility at times in the past, but overlapping schedules often make it unavailable.
UA associate athletics director Matt Trantham said in February the facility, which has an estimated price tag of $9.625 million, could be completed prior to the 2014 baseball season, but the speed of construction will be based on fundraising. An architect and contractor for the project have already been selected.
"It would be huge for us," Van Horn said. "Whenever they talk about the facility, they talk about inclement weather and all that, but we would use that facility every day.
"The work and practice we'd be able to get done in there would be second to none. Then, obviously, the ability to bring recruits in there and show them that facility would really prove to them how important baseball is here at Arkansas."
Long has said in the past the athletics department will repay bonds used toward the construction of practice facilities and the soon-to-be-completed $35 million football operations center through private donations, though it appears more donations are needed to kick-start the projects. The formation of the SEC Network, which is scheduled to be launched in 2014, will help some with the projects, Long said, though it is unknown how much money member schools will receive from the new TV contract with ESPN.
"The network is going to help us not have to raise ticket prices and donor levels," Long said. "As far as donors, the people that have capacity have the means to give money to causes they believe in. We want them to believe we are a cause worth believing in. Our cause is developing young people to their fullest potential."