Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Walker Foundation donates $5 million toward baseball facility
An artist's rendering shows a proposed baseball operations building on the southwest side of Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE The Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation has pledged $5 million toward the construction of a baseball office and training facility at the University of Arkansas, according to a news release.
The announcement came less than three weeks after UA trustees approved the construction of the 40,000-square-foot facility - referred to preliminarily as the Baseball Performance Center - at the corner of 15th Street and DeBriyn Drive on the southwest side of Baum Stadium. The multi-story facility will cost between $20 million and $25 million, according to estimates, and is expected to be complete sometime in 2021.
The Walkers made a $1 million donation toward the construction of Baum Stadium in the 1990s and an undisclosed contribution to upgrade the stadium in the early 2000s. The foundation has contributed millions toward multiple other athletics-based projects on campus such as Bud Walton Arena and the Fred W. Smith Center, and the Walkers are the namesake for the indoor football facility, the Willard & Pat Walker Pavilion.
“My family has been committed to Razorback student-athletes for decades,” said Johnny Mike Walker, son of the late Willard and Pat Walker, and a letterman on the Arkansas baseball team in 1975. “As a fan watching from the stands, and as a former student-athlete, I have countless memories in Baum Stadium. As a family and as a Foundation, we are committed to helping improve the Razorback student-athlete experience.”
The new baseball facility will address dated areas of the 23-year-old Baum Stadium by adding a new clubhouse, batting cages, meeting areas and coaches’ offices, among other amenities.
“We always try to keep it blue collar around here as much as we can, but we need that,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said last Wednesday. “What’s going on in our league, mostly schools in our division, and now you’ve got a couple of schools in Oklahoma (building) things now, it’s been a battle (to recruit). But it’s really for the players.
“There is going to be a lot to show when we get a kid on campus, and not just the ballpark.”
The new facility is expected to add limited premium-level seating areas beyond the wall in right field at Baum Stadium. Van Horn said the facility could also include some areas accessible to the public, such as a museum.
Administrators began soliciting funds for the new building around the time the Razorbacks finished national runner-up at the College World Series in June.
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