The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees approved a ground lease resolution Monday to allow a $29 million renovation project to begin at Centennial Bank Stadium. The renovation will include a reconstruction of the north end zone bleachers. The Red Wolves Foundation will raise the money for the project through private donations, fees for seating, and other revenue sources ASU President Chuck Welch told Talk Business & Politics.
“It’s amazing what they (the foundation) have been able to accomplish,” Welch said. “We’ve never seen anything like this in the history of our university.”
Construction is expected to begin in the next couple of weeks. The stadium renovation is slated to be finished before the start of the football season.
An operations building, new locker rooms, position meeting rooms, weight training and rehabilitation areas, hydro-therapy room, and office spaces are part of the project.
The renovation is the vision of ASU Athletic Director Terry Mohajir. It was one of his main objectives when he was hired in 2012. Officials hope the stadium renovations will be completed before the 2018 season begins, and the rest of the project should be finished in early 2019. The renovations will allow the university to recruit the best athletes in this part of the country, and it should create a better home field advantage for ASU.
The stadium seats more than 30,000 fans. The renovation will reduce the end zone bleacher capacity from a couple of thousand to about 600, but the overall capacity shouldn’t drop below 30,000, he said. Stadium box seats, an all-you-can eat food and drink area, a water feature, and two alcoholic beverage bars are among the planned additions. Luxury boxes, known as the Red Wolves Den, and naming rights opportunities are already being offered. Those naming rights will be in the new expansion. Boxes in the Red Wolves Den section will seat four and private restrooms will be made available.
ASU will relocate its outdoor football practice fields and will construct a Tailgate Promenade. The promenade will include numbered individual parking spots and a connected 10 x 10 tailgate tent that will create a unique tailgating environment. It will feature private restrooms and allow for personal 10 x 10 tailgate tents for game days.
There had been consternation raised over fountains and other water planned water features that have driven costs higher. Mohajir said he has been able to get private donations to sponsor the features, Welch said.
In other business, the board approved a resolution to allow the university for bond issues from 2009-10 to be refinanced. The tax reform bill before the U.S. House and Senate could eliminate this option starting in January. ASU could save up to $2.6 million on the $12.280 million in bonds that were issued for a student housing construction project, Welch said.
Arkansas State University, then playing with the Indians mascot, played the first game at what would become Centennial Bank Field in September 1974.
The grass field was replaced in 2006 with an artificial playing surface, and in 2010 that turf was replaced with a “GEO Surfaces” field turf.
A three-story complex was built in the south end zone in 2002, which followed a stadium expansion in 1991 that raised the seating from 16,343 to 30,406. The stadium’s multi-level press box includes media areas, coaching booths, broadcasting locations, a video control booth, camera areas, suites, and a club area.
Home BancShares Board Chairman John Allison donated $5 million – the largest individual donation in ASU Athletics history – for the “Centennial Expansion” construction and renovation project to the stadium’s press box and west-side concourse that took place two years ago. Conway-based Home BancShares is the parent company of Centennial Bank.
The entire project, including the press box and concourse, covered 40,000 square feet. The Centennial Expansion project included a complete overhaul to the stadium press box, expanding it from 7,120 to 36,000 square feet. The face of the stadium has been redesigned to include 42 loge boxes, 20 suites, a club area covering close to 8,000 square feet and 344 club seats in its revenue-generating areas.
Welch said raising $29 million for a renovation project would have been unheard of at ASU 10 years ago. Times have changed, he said.
“I have to commend Terry Mohajir and the Red Wolves Foundation for the work they’ve done,” he said.