Trustees approve firms to analyze Bud Walton Arena renovation

A rendering shown to University of Arkansas trustees Tuesday depicts what loge boxes might look like inside Bud Walton Arena following a renovation. (Courtesy Arkansas Razorbacks)

FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas trustees approved design professionals and contractors Monday who will evaluate renovation options at Bud Walton Arena. 

Trustees approved the university’s recommendation of Dallas-based AECOM with Springdale-based Cromwell Architects for design work, and the construction teams of Minneapolis-based Mortenson and Conway-based Nabholz. The UA interviewed five design teams and four contractor teams in early May before making its recommendation. 

Scott Turley, UA associate vice chancellor for facilities, said the chosen firms will analyze three renovation scenarios for the 30-year-old arena over the next six months. Trustees will be presented with details concerning the scope, budget and source of funding in early 2024. 

Preliminary figures indicate the project could cost between $50 million and $100 million, but an updated cost will be established as part of the design process. 

According to a capital project proposal form given to trustees, the first renovation scenario is referred to as baseline. Turley said it will address mechanical and electrical systems that will bring the arena “up to current standard.” 

In a speech earlier this month, UA athletics director Hunter Yurachek said around $45 million to $50 million in deferred maintenance is required at the arena, which includes repairs to the roof, HVAC system, electrical system and replacement of the arena’s original playing surface. 

Turley said the second renovation scenario would focus on game-day experience for athletes and fans. According to the capital project proposal form, it would improve student seating and create new premium seating options, including club seats, loge boxes and suites that would generate revenue to support the program. 

“In order to pay for that maintenance we’ve got to do some things like add a club level, add loge boxes, redo our suites and add some premium amenities that have become attractive our fans at our football stadium and at our baseball venue,” Yurachek said June 6 at the State of Athletics luncheon hosted by Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. 

The third scenario would include the renovations outlined in the second scenario, and would analyze whether the arena can be used as a performance venue for non-athletic events. 

In March, Yurachek told trustees that a large-scale renovation to the arena could begin as early as the spring of 2025, and that the addition of premium seating could result in the reduction of about 1,500 to 2,000 seats. The renovation would be complete by the start of the 2026-27 season. 

Yurachek told trustees in March that some non-conference games in 2025-26 would need to be played elsewhere, but the Razorbacks might be able to play conference games there by early 2026 while construction is ongoing.

Bud Walton Arena opened in November 1993 and has a listed capacity of 19,200. Men's basketball season tickets have sold out the past two seasons and Yurachek said in June he expects a sellout again for the 2023-24 season.