The University of Arkansas athletics department and the Razorback Foundation announced Monday (Dec. 3) a $5 million donation from Fayetteville nonprofit Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation. The money will help support construction of a new team facility at UA’s Baum Stadium in south Fayetteville.
“My family has been committed to Razorback student-athletes for decades,” Johnny Mike Walker, the Walker’s son, said in a statement. “As a fan watching from the stands, and as a former student-athlete, I have countless memories in Baum Stadium. As a family and as a Foundation, we are committed to helping improve the Razorback student-athlete experience.”
The new facility, dubbed the Baseball Performance Center, has an estimated cost of between $20 and $25 million. The approximately 40,000-square-foot clubhouse facility will include a state-of-the-art locker room, team room, weight room, training room, meeting rooms, nutrition space, player and pitching development spaces and in-venue batting cages. It will be built behind the right field corner of Baum Stadium, connecting with the current west concourse and providing new premium viewing areas for games.
WER (Fayetteville and Little Rock) and HKS (Dallas, Texas) will lead the design team on the baseball clubhouse project while Kinco Constructors (Springdale and Little Rock) will serve as the general contractor.
The late Willard and Pat Walker were regarded as two of the state’s most generous philanthropists. Willard was the first manager of Sam Walton’s five-and-dime store in Fayetteville, and the couple’s early investments in Walmart Inc. resulted in an extraordinary amount of wealth.
Willard Walker died in 2003. Pat Walker passed away in 2016.
“Being able to join Razorback Nation in Omaha this past summer as the Razorbacks made their ninth appearance in the College World Series was an experience that I’ll never forget,” Mandy Macke, executive director of the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, said in a statement. “As a former Diamond Doll and lifelong Razorback, I am honored to play a role in helping with the leadership gift for the new Baseball Performance Center.”
The Baseball Performance Center is one of three athletics-related construction projects approved in November by the UA Board of Trustees.
Baum Stadium hosted nine games during the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals this past season, welcoming more fans than any other ballpark in the nation, according to the UA.