The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees will meet next week and its agenda includes a proposal to hire a project manager for UA Athletic Director Jeff Long’s proposal for a $100-million-plus addition to the north end zone of Razorback Stadium and other athletic facilities.
UA Trustee David Pryor, who’s expressed reservations about the size of the project previously, tells me he plans to present a list of questions about the project, ranging from scope to priorities of the university to competitive bidding.
Pryor said his mind “is open,” but he remains reluctant to approve a project of this size “especially with all the needs of the university.”
Pryor said he had told Long that he intended to prepare a list of questions about the project that he’ll submit to new UA Chancellor Joesph Steinmetz for answers at the meeting. He said he didn’t know if Long, the driver of the expansion to create 3,000 club-style seats in the stadium and other work, would be present. I’d seek a UA response, but Long doesn’t respond personally to questions from the Arkansas Times and blocks us from following his social media accounts.
In addition to scope — Pryor estimated a $200 million bond issue would be necessary to add 3,000 seats against a $100 million bond issue to add 22,000 seats in 2000 — Pryor said he was interested in transparency of the bidding process and competition. He said the UA had done relatively better in encouraging competition among contractors and architects than among bond underwriters in the last 20 years, but he still had questions about whether the best price was available under the process undertaken for the stadium expansion.
The UA Board packet includes a letter from UA System President Donald Bobbit that said Chancellor Steinmetz had reported on an evaluation of proposals to be construction manager/general contractor of the Razorback Stadium expansion project.
It said that a joint bid from Mortensen/Nabholz of Minneapolis and Conway and from CID/Hunt Joint Ventures of Little Rock and Scottsdale, Ariz., had been the top scorers among five on a ranking by a selection committee, finishing 1 point apart. The attached information supplied with the agenda isn’t clear on the criteria for those rankings.
Authorization to seek proposals was sought Jan. 29; interviews were done March 10 and Steinmetz and the selection committee, including Athletic Department representatives, contributed to the rankings. The Board is set to take action on the recommendation Wednesday, after a buildings and grounds committee Tuesday.
Pryor said he has a number of questions about the absence of competitive bidding in pricing and whether it will apply to subcontractors on the job. The ranking doesn’t include any information related to price on information give to Board members.
“The system bothers me,” Pryor said. He noted the huge increase in price for a relatively small number of seats against the 2000 expansion. “These are not general admission seats,” he noted. They are seats in “little boxes.”
Pryor said it’s important for the public to ask questions now. “Once one of these things gets going, it’s just about impossible to stop,” he said. “I want to keep the horses in the barn as long as I possibly can.”
He said he was still working on his list of questions. He said he intended to submit them to Steinmetz by Tuesday and he would do so with the understanding they’d be available to public view under the Freedom of Information Act.
He added that this would likely be a historic high for a bond issue for the university — for a football stadium.