The University of Arkansas athletics department and the Razorback Foundation announced Thursday (Dec. 6) a $6 million donation from the Tyson family. The money will be used to help support the cost of renovating and expanding the University of Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center, a 5,500-seat indoor facility in south Fayetteville.
The project is expected to cost between $15 million and $20 million.
“Since legendary Razorback Track & Field Coach John McDonnell first approached my dad [Don Tyson] to support the initial construction of the track center… our family has been committed to supporting the championship track and field programs at the University of Arkansas,” John H. Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods Inc., said in a statement. “Investing in the renovation and expansion of the Randal Tyson Track Center will ensure it remains one of the world’s top track and field venues while also helping the Razorbacks to recruit and retain the most talented track and field student-athletes from around the globe.”
The construction project will include “reconfigured seating, enhanced circulation throughout the building, new concessions and restrooms, satellite locker rooms and training room facilities,” according to the UA. The project will be completed in stages to allow the venue to still be used for competition during construction.
Work is expected to be completed in time to host the 2021 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Polk Stanley Wilcox (Fayetteville and Little Rock) and Populous (Kansas City, Mo.) will lead the design team, CDI Contractors (Fayetteville and Little Rock) will serve as the general contractor.
The Randal Tyson Track Center opened in 2000 and has hosted 12 NCAA Championships and eight Southeastern Conference Championships.
Randal Tyson, the son of company founder John Tyson and the brother of former company chairman and CEO Don Tyson, died in 1986 at the age of 34 after choking on food.
The indoor track upgrade is one of three athletics-related construction projects approved in November by the UA Board of Trustees. The projects will be funded entirely by athletic revenues, gifts, and bond proceeds from a future bond issue. No university funds will be required to complete the projects, according to the university.
On Monday (Dec. 3), the UA announced a $5 million donation from Fayetteville nonprofit Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation to help support the construction of a new baseball team facility at Baum Stadium.
The third project is an approximately 20,000 square foot Track and Field High Performance Center, to be built just south of the track at John McDonnell Field on Razorback Road. It’s expected to cost between $8 million and $10 million.
Kassidie Blackstock, director of strategic communications and stewardship for the Razorback Foundation, said a lead gift to help finance that project “is close” to being announced.