Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale heads the list of big spenders who licensed luxury suites at both Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and Bud Walton Arena this year.
Twenty-one companies and individuals licensed or shared a license for skybox suites at both University of Arkansas Razorback sports venues, for the current football season and this past basketball season.
Tyson committed to paying at least $116,800 for skybox suites at both venues, according to data released by the UA.
The minimum commitment represents the number of seats, ranging from nine to 33 (in Tyson’s suite) at Reynolds Stadium, multiplied by the ticket price for that suite, which averages $1,950 per seat. Each suite also has optional, standing-room tickets for licensing, at $300 apiece.
Suite tickets at Bud Walton Arena average about $2,137.50 per seat, and there are between 10 and 18 in each suite. The optional, standing-room tickets are $450.
The list of individuals and companies with suites at both venues includes two poultry companies, two financial companies, an auto dealer, a retailer, a utility company, a farm supplier, real estate firm and a dry- and cold-storage warehousing company.
Springdale’s other poultry industry heavyweight, George’s Inc., will spend at least $86,025, according to the data.
Dillard’s Inc. of Little Rock will spend at least $78,900, while 1964 Razorback national championship team member Jim Lindsey of Fayetteville and Chris Fowler, Mark Fowler and Wallace Fowler, all of Jonesboro, share licenses for suites at the football stadium and basketball arena, representing a combined minimum financial commitment of $74,150.
Entergy Arkansas Inc. of Little Rock also committed to spending at least $74,150 for suites at Reynolds Stadium and Walton Arena.
There are 126 suites available to be leased by the public (134 total) at Reynolds Stadium and 44 (48 total) at Walton Arena, said Kevin Trainor, UA associate athletic director for public relations.
To see a list of suite holders at Reynolds Stadium, click here.
To see a list of suite holders at Bud Walton Arena, click here.
Each license agreement is for one year. Including the Sept. 5 winning game against University of Texas at El Paso, there are six games scheduled to be played at Reynolds Stadium this year.
Of the companies that license suites at both venues, four are in Little Rock, two in Fort Smith, one is in Bryant, one in Harrison, and there is even one in the small, eastern Arkansas town of Moro.
The UA in Fayetteville denied a request made under the Freedom of Information Act to release a list of suite licensees at Baum Stadium, citing an exemption on the basis that it would give competitive advantage to a perceived rival, Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, home of the region’s minor league baseball team, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
Trainor did reveal that the budgeted revenue from suites at Baum Stadium is $625,000 for the 2015-16 season, that there are 30 suites available to be licensed by the public (35 total), and there are currently no vacancies.
A Tyson representative said the company still regularly licenses a suite at Baum Stadium, as does Arvest Bank.
When the Baum Stadium suite data was last released to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal in 2004, before the Naturals team was formed and before the stadium added about 20 suites in 2006, Tyson and Stephens Inc. of Little Rock were listed as the only companies to license suits at all three Hog sports venues.
A ‘Suite’ Deal
Licensing a suite for Razorback football has some obvious perks.
For one thing, you never miss the action while waiting in line for the public restrooms.
Also, in-suite catering saves the trouble of fighting the crowd at concessions, and there is comfortable seating, central heat and air, tables, a refrigerator and cable television.
Donny Story, president and CEO of Arvest Bank–Fayetteville, said he likes that the bank’s skybox suite — located on the east side of the stadium — has windows that can open.
“You get a great fan experience from the comfort of the suite,” he said.
Like many other companies, Arvest uses its luxury suites to entertain bank customers and potential customers.
“Our customers enjoy the suite experience and the hospitality provided by those entertaining them at each sporting venue,” he said.
Story also said Arvest’s box, located between the 30 and 35 yard lines, “provides an excellent view of the entire field as well as the video board.”
Arvest made a $53,450 commitment for suites at the football stadium and basketball arena this year. However, Story said the bank also licenses the optional standing-room seats at both venues, tacking on about $3,000 to the price — and those figures don’t include catering and other ancillary costs.
Story said Arvest also licensed 20 suite seats at Baum Stadium this past season.
Having suites at all three venues helps Arvest appeal to a broad range of clients, based on their interests, Story said.
“Some customers prefer the baseball games over football games and vice versa, others prefer the activities at the Walton Arts Center versus the sporting venues. The goal is to align the entertainment opportunity with each customer’s interest,” he said.
Supporting the UA
Bank of Arkansas has had a box at Reynolds Stadium for about 15 years.
“As soon as one came available, we signed up and took it,” said Jett Cato, president and CEO of the bank, which is part of BOK Financial Corp. of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Cato said backing the UA is part of showing loyalty to the community and the state of Arkansas.
“The University of Arkansas is such an asset for the entire state and especially Northwest Arkansas,” he said, pointing to the school as a stable influence for the region in many aspects, including the economy.
“They do so much for our state and area, so you just truly want to support them,” he said.
Also, by appealing to Razorback fans, you are tapping into a large group, here locally, whether the bank is looking to gain new customers or show appreciation to current ones.
“The people in Arkansas seem to be such avid Razorback fans. This is something that we can do that, almost without exception, all of our customers, prospects, and so forth, really enjoy getting behind and supporting the Razorbacks, going to the games,” Cato said.
“You really can’t live in Arkansas — and especially Northwest Arkansas — without developing a passion for the Razorbacks and following them,” he said.
The pervasiveness of Hog culture is evident in the UA athletics department’s budgeted revenue for the 2015-16 school year, which is up about 9 percent from last year, at $97.5 million, according to Trainor.