Shortly after the spring game on Saturday, the official Razorback social media accounts began releasing links to a new microsite with new information about the proposed expansion to the north end zone at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
It's nothing too earth-shattering from things we've seen before, but there are new interesting details. I don't know that these are final renderings of what they're planning, but it's what UA is showing today, and it's fairly consistent with what we've already seen, so I assume (yes, I know what happens when you assume) the final product will look something close to this.
The site does announce that the projected opening is for the 2018 football season and will cost an estimated $160 million.
As opposed to the computer drawing we saw a few months ago, these are much more detailed renderings, complete with reflective glass on the back of the Broyles Center. The website also declares that UA fully intends on keeping the northeast corner of the stadium open. Hopefully, it will still be accessible for people as a photo spot. I think that has to be one of the most photographed places in the state as it is now. Who hasn't taken a picture there?
Here's what they're calling the standing-room only view. It looks like they will make an open walking area in that northeast part of the stadium.
However, the real interesting thing in this picture to me is the long-discussed video board in the south end of the stadium. You can see it clearly behind the upper deck here.
And here of course is the actual north end zone. It's pretty similar to what we've already seen, but here there are more people in the area to help give a more detailed rendition. You can see tents at the top level as well. It also shows a brick facade underneath the scoreboard.
These are examples of the box seats on an upper level of the expansion. These seem similar to the box suites at Oaklawn.
And if you're fortunate enough to get these kind of club seats, you'll have access to this lounge area, I would think. Judging by the seating on the outside, that's what it appears like.
We do note that this is all still under "proposed" status. It has not been formally approved yet by the Board of Trustees. It appears part of the reason for this release is to buffer against any negativity to the effort. Trustee member David Pryor, former governor and senator from Arkansas, was quoted saying, "I assume I am, right now, a minority of one, but I feel very strongly that now is not the time to go forward with the stadium project."
Pryor writes that he's concerned, among other things, regarding the cost of the project, which would include a $120 million bond in addition to private donations, especially considering the project will only add about 4,800 seats to the stadium. When Arkansas last expanded Razorback Stadium before the 2001 season, the bond was $100 million and added over 20,000 seats.
But as has been noted, the only seats for which there is a demand UA currently cannot fill is premium seating, meaning club seats and suites, which is all the north end zone would be. There is certainly not a demand for more student seating, and the bleacher seats are as full as they seem to be able to be.
In all, Pryor came up with 33 questions for UA, and the school addressed each one. You can view both the questions and responses here.
Personally, I'd be shocked if this project didn't happen. If this is going to be funded through private donations and people are willing to pay for these ticket prices to pay off the bond, then I don't see a drawback. UA loves to tout the fact that Arkansas students don't pay fees for athletics and the school still gives millions back to the academic side of the university.
And the benefit for everybody, even if you don't sit in those seats, is that the Broyles Center eyesore will be gone from inside the stadium. They've tried their best to doctor it up with graphics but it's still the ugliest end zone backdrop in the SEC (it's true). The expansion will change that, and that's good for all of us. I'm not sure what kind of an impact it will have on recruiting. I tend to believe few recruits will pick a school because of facilities, but they will eliminate a school for facilities, so I don't see how this would hurt.
Interesting times ahead.