The University of Arkansas distributed at 5:23 p.m. today answers assembled by Athletic Department officials and others to questions raised by UA Board of Trustees member David Pryor about a proposed $160 million expansion of Razorback Stadium and other athletic space in the north end zone.
Pryor has expressed reluctance about the scope of the project, given other needs of the university. So far, a $160 million price tag has been floated. It would be repaid by revenue from TV and marketing contracts, premium seat sales, private donations and other athletic revenue, not taxpayer subsidy.
The UA Board has hired a construction manager. At that meeting, Pryor submitted questions about the project. I asked for a copy of responses when they were prepared and got them today.
It begins with a cover letter from Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. He’s on board:
We believe that this project is not only important for the future of the University of Arkansas, but also for the continued economic and cultural growth of our state.
Steinmetz said new premium seats are vital and the north end zone work will also improve flow into the stadium for all fans. He vowed to bring the project in at $160 million and said
$40 million would be raised in private money, with the rest produced by a bond sale. He noted that football supports non-revenue sports.
With new needs, including heightened safety and security requirements, and the evolving demands of our fans and alumni, we have reached another critical crossroads in the history of the University to complete the stadium on its north end and to conduct needed renovations throughout the facility.
In the Q&A, Steinmetz says athletics puts money back into the University (about $2 million in direct annual support, not counting tuition for athletic scholarships, for example) as well as spurring other general economic activity. He said the expansion will add only 4,000 seats, but they’ll be high revenue-producing seats, though he said they couldn’t yet say what the seat prices would be. No new general admission seats are planned, but some rooftop standing room is planned.
Steinmetz said bids for subcontracts would be taken, but this doesn’t mean a low bid will be chosen in every case. A new video board alone could cost $5 to 6 million.
The answers outline tens of millions in future athletic projects for other sports, including a $41-$51 million renovation of the Walton basketball arena and major expenditures on baseball and volleyball totaling as much as $42 million. Other notes:
*The project would be the largest single project in campus history.
* Some 835 new parking spaces are to be created on the west side of the stadium, but about 100 will be lost in the pit north of the stadium.
* A $120 million bond issue is anticipated and it shouldn’t harm the university’s bond rating. Campus debt is currently $687 million, but Steinmetz says the campus has sufficient revenue capacity to handle the additional debt.
* The $2.3 million now given in academic support from athletics is fourth in the SEC though UA is ninth largest in revenue.
* Asked about spending of SEC Network windfall money, the answer included that millions has been spent on video and other equipment needs to support the hookup. There’s also a commitment worth about $2 million a year over 30 years to academic facilities. Also, athletics budgets $3 million a year for “new cost-of attendance opportunities and provide additional nutritional needs for student athletes.” This means newly allowed stipends for athletes and better food.
Check the document and report back on items of interest. This is my quick run-through.