The University of Arkansas announced Tuesday (Nov. 19) a $5 million gift from the J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family. The money will help fund the construction of a new $27 million facility for the Razorback baseball team at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Pending approval from the UA Board of Trustees, the athletics department will name the 49,000-square-foot facility the J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Baseball Development Center. The resolution will be considered at this week’s two-day board meeting Thursday and Friday in Little Rock.
J.B. and Johnelle Hunt founded Lowell-based trucking company J.B. Hunt Transport Services in 1961. J.B. Hunt died in December 2006. Johnelle Hunt is chairman of Hunt Ventures in Rogers.
“We are deeply appreciative of the continuing generosity of the Hunt family and their support of Razorback Athletics and the University of Arkansas,” UA athletics director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “Their lead gift for the baseball development center will help us provide our student-athletes, coaches and staff with a facility that celebrates the history and tradition of our program while most importantly preparing the next generation of Razorbacks for even greater success. I know that Coach Dave Van Horn, his staff and our entire team are excited for this spectacular new addition to our program. We are grateful for the Hunts’ extraordinary investment in the lives of our student-athletes and the future of Razorback Baseball.”
The Baseball Development Center will be constructed in the right-field corner of Baum-Walker Stadium, which first opened in 1996. It will connect with the current west concourse and provide new premium viewing areas for games. It will also include a tunnel to connect the facility with the first-base dugout. UA spokesman Kevin Trainor said that will eventually mean the Hogs will switch dugouts, from third base to the first-base side.
“The timeline [for the dugout switch] is not determined at this point,” Trainor wrote in an email. “That may not happen until the 2022 season as the facility is not scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2021 season.”
The Hunt gift is the second $5 million donation in support of the baseball facility. Fayetteville nonprofit Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation announced its $5 million donation last December.
Construction is scheduled to begin next month with a targeted completion set for spring of 2021. 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 Baseball Development Center is one of three athletics-related construction projects approved in November 2018 by the UA Board of Trustees. It’s approximately 49,000 square feet and will include an improved and expanded locker room, team meeting room, strength and conditioning center, training room, nutrition center, student-athlete pitching and development lab and batting tunnel. The Norm DeBriyn Champions Lobby will feature numerous historical displays and interactive content showcasing the history of the Razorback baseball program.
“The Hunt family legacy and commitment to the University of Arkansas is undeniable,” Razorback Foundation Executive Director and General Counsel Scott Varady said in a statement. “Their investment in our programs and student-athletes can be seen throughout campus and we are extremely grateful for their support.”
The UA said the Baseball Development Center will be funded entirely by athletic revenues, gifts and bond proceeds from the bond issue. No university funds, state funds or student fees will be required to complete the project.