University of Arkansas officials hosted media members Monday (Aug. 27) for a guided tour of the $160 million stadium renovation and north end zone addition at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
The project was approved by the UA Board of Trustees in June 2016 and construction started six months later. It’s the first significant upgrade to the stadium since 2001.
“We made it,” Matt Trantham said at Monday’s walkthrough. “I know there’s been some speculation about the progress and the timeline, but outside of a little bit of touch-up here and there, the stadium is ready for Saturday.”
The Razorbacks host Eastern Illinois University on Saturday. Kickoff is 3 p.m.
Trantham, a senior associate athletic director who oversees all Razorback facilities and events, said “a lot of great folks worked very hard” to get the construction project to the finish line before Saturday’s home opener. CDI/Hunt Joint Ventures led the work as construction manager and general contractor, respectively. Populous of Kansas City, Mo., and Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects of Little Rock and Faytteville led the building design. Experiential design firm Advent of Nashville, Tenn., was responsible for all the graphic design.
The building in the north end zone includes approximately 315,000 square feet of new space, including administrative offices for the athletic department in a rebuilt Broyles Athletic Center, named for the late Frank Broyles, the university’s former head football coach and athletic director.
“Any construction project of this magnitude, there’s a lot we can’t control,” Trantham said. “We worked around an existing football season last year. You’re renovating existing space on top of building new space. You’ve got the weather, materials arriving on time, various other things. For all of it to come together just as we expected — and we somewhat demanded of ourselves — it’s good to finally get to this point.”
The expansion added 32 suites, 70 loge boxes — available in four- or eight-seat configurations — and 2,300 club seats to the north end zone, which will increase stadium capacity from 72,000 to 76,000. Trantham said all 32 suites have been leased.
All of the new premium seats feed into designated club areas on three different levels of the north end zone. The new spaces have television screens and food and drink options throughout, and are adorned with photos and décor that pay tribute to the Razorbacks football history.
New elevators have also been installed at the northeast and northwest corners to service existing east and west suites, club areas and upper level seating. Existing suites and club areas have also been renovated and updated. A new video board has been added at the south end of the stadium.
Trantham said construction was completed at budget. It was funded entirely by athletic revenues, gifts and bond proceeds from a future $120 million bond issue, according to the UA’s preliminary financing plan. Bonds will be repaid over a 20-year period using athletic revenues generated from the stadium.
The remaining cost not financed by the bond came from athletic funds for design and pre-construction work ($10 million) and capital commitments for the new suites. In a report to the board of trustees in April, the UA said it had received more than $41 million in signed agreements for the suites and loge boxes. Those commitments are being paid out over the next five to seven years. The UA also said in April that due to the success in securing commitments for the new suites and loge boxes, and the overall solid financial position of the athletic department, Razorback Foundation reserves were not used for the stadium project as originally planned.
Trantham said as the project winds down, work being done up to this point has been focused solely on getting the stadium ready for the Razorbacks’ first game. Athletics department personnel — who’ve been displaced to Bud Walton Arena for nearly two years — will move back to the Broyles Center in a few weeks. The new office space is about 30,000 square feet, a little larger than the “old” Broyles Center configuration.
“We’ve put all our focus on Sept. 1 and what needs to be ready to host a football game,” he said. “The offices weren’t important to that. Those are pretty much ready, but we’ll focus our move mid-September after we get past the first two games.”
Trantham noted fans will now be able to access all sides of the stadium through a 360-degree concourse at street level.
UA officials also provided information Monday about other changes fans can anticipate when attending Razorback football games in Fayetteville this season. The most notable are self-scanning stations set up at all stadium gates. Fans will now scan their own individual ticket to be admitted to the stadium.
The stadium has also been renumbered to provide a sequential flow throughout seating areas. The revised numbering system, according to the UA, allows fans to access gates and seating sections more efficiently
Following Monday’s stadium tour, media members sampled some of the food items available this season through Levy, which is beginning its second season as the athletic department’s dining and hospitality partner.
The stadium’s food offerings this year have also expanded to include Slim Chickens and Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.
Tom Gordon, co-founder and CEO of Fayetteville-based Slim Chickens, said Monday it’s a dream come true to have a presence in Razorback Stadium this year.
“We’ve had a long relationship with the University of Arkansas and couldn’t be prouder to have been selected to offer Slim Chickens to fans during the home games this year,” he said. “This is the perfect way to introduce our brand to even more people from all over the state and beyond. We’re going to keep the menu simple and offer our signature 100% all-natural fresh chicken tenders, hand breaded and served hot. Of course, we’ll have fries and drinks to complete the Slim Chickens experience.”