Arkansas unveils athletic facilities plan

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas unveiled details of an estimated $300 million athletic facilities plan, one that includes the enclosing of the north end zone at Razorback Stadium.

The plan released Tuesday could take up to 30 years and affect each of the university's 19 athletic programs.

In addition to the end zone enclosure, the plan also includes a basketball practice facility near Bud Walton Arena, an academic and dining center, and renovations at the baseball team's Baum Stadium and the indoor and outdoor track facilities.

Athletic director Jeff Long also included plans for a 5,000-seat competition venue for sports such as gymnastics and volleyball as well as concerts. Those sports currently use Barnhill Arena, which Long said might have outlived its usefulness.

Long, who is in his fourth full year in charge of Arkansas athletics, said there is no timeline for any of the projects and that the plan is a "wish list."

He said each project would be completed as demand warrants and money would be raised through private donations, ticket sales, television money received from the Southeastern Conference and sponsorships.

He also stressed the athletic department receives no state funding and that each construction project must be approved by university officials.

"This really is a vision," Long said. "It's what could happen over the next 5, 10, 15, 30 years into the future. There are many things that are unknown, but this is a plan to help move our program forward."

Arkansas announced plans for a $35 million, 80,000-square-foot football operations center last year. Groundbreaking on the facility near Razorback Stadium is scheduled for Nov. 4.

The master plan includes the first major renovation to the 72,000-seat Razorback Stadium since a 19,000-seat expansion in 2001 that enclosed the south end zone and added a second deck on the east side.

Long said the estimated $78 million to $95 million expansion would feature at least 5,000 new seats, including field-level suites and indoor and outdoor club areas.

Similar to Cowboys Stadium, where Arkansas has played Texas A&M the past three seasons, the renovation would also allow the Razorbacks to walk through the club areas and onto the field on game days.

It's a feature Long said was "borrowed" from Cowboys owner and Arkansas alum Jerry Jones.

The new seating areas would be attached to the existing Broyles Center and underneath the stadium's current video board, which Long said is already scheduled for a major upgrade before next season.

New, smaller video boards would be added in the south end zone as well as other updating and renovations throughout the stadium -- including a new underground parking deck to the north of the stadium.

Long also said the possibility of a reduction in the number of football games in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium wasn't raised during the facilities planning process.

Arkansas is under contract to play two games per season in Little Rock through 2016, and Long said budgeting for the expansion would be based on the current five-game home schedule in Fayetteville.

"That decision will be made sometime in the future," Long said.

Long said there is no timeline or priority list for any of the projects, but he is hopeful the new basketball practice facility is one of the first addressed.

He said Arkansas is the only school in the Southeastern Conference without a separate practice site and that the estimated $20 million to $25 million facility would help with recruiting and logistical problems concerning practice times in Bud Walton Arena.

"It's a missing piece to our game plan for Razorback basketball, men's and women's, to be successful," Long said.