Some notes from BWA/BOT presentation

I listened to Hunter Yurachek and his team’s comments to the Board of Trustees meeting tonight. Here were some things that stood out to me:

• Everything discussed today and the renderings shown were preliminary and based on the feasibility study that was conducted a few years ago. There are essentially three proposals on the table: one that would address critical needs like a new roof, new floor, new HVAC and other back-of-house areas; that renovation plus the addition of some new premium areas like loge boxes, bunker suites, new club areas and enlarging existing suites; and a proposal that would make the arena a multipurpose facility capable of hosting non-athletic events like concerts.

• BWA currently has 48 suites and 96 court-side seats, and those are the only premium areas.

• The hope is to select a contractor and architect in April or May. If everything goes well, the renovation would begin after the conclusion of the 2024-25 season. The team would be able to play games there by the 2026 SEC season and would play some non-conference games elsewhere that fall/winter.

• Renovations would result in the reduction of about 1,500 to 2,000 seats. The highest number of scanned tickets this year was under 17,000 for the Kentucky game and the expectation is for a 90% renewal rate for season tickets. This, Yurachek said, makes him believe no existing season-ticket holders would be pushed out.

• Matt Trantham said renovations are needed to maintain BWA as a top arena for another 30 years.

• One of the areas Trantham discussed was the permanent floor. He said most arenas now have portable floors and Arkansas’ is “very rare.” The hope is to make the BWA floor one that is portable and not exclusive to basketball. Remember the plan is to move gymnastics in after renovation.

• Trustee Tommy Boyer pushed back some on the idea of reducing seats. Yurachek said he believes it is good to have supply lower than demand. He cited Nashville’s arena, where the Razorbacks played last week, as having around 17,000 seats and serving a larger metropolitan area. Yurachek and some trustees toured Bridgestone Arena in Nashville last week to see what an arena built in the same time frame as BWA could look like after a large-scale renovation.

• Arkansas is hoping to have a 90-95% rate of tickets scanned after renovation.

• There was talk of the Donald W. Reynolds name coming off the football stadium after June 30, 2024. The Reynolds Foundation paid for naming rights for 20 years initially, and extended those rights for five years at a total of $5 million. The new naming rights for football will be shopped at $40 million for an undisclosed number of years.

• Arkansas plans to retire $78 million in athletics debt over the next six years, and all of its existing athletics debt within 14 years. Any new debt from the basketball arena would be retired over 20 years.

• This year’s athletics revenue is projected to be around $155 million with approximately 70% from football, 20% from basketball and 5% from baseball. New SEC revenues will increase the annual payout by more than $10 million, according to CFO Clayton Hamilton.

• Hamilton said the athletics department and Razorback Foundation have about $57 million in reserves right now. Some of that money will be used to pay for a new video board in the south end zone later this year, and some could go toward the planned soccer stadium renovation.

• Scott Varady of the Razorback Foundation said Arkansas hopes to launch a $125 million capital campaign that would be completed by 2028. He said other capital campaigns underway in the SEC right now include $500 million at Tennessee; $300 million at Vanderbilt and Georgia; $175 million at Ole Miss; and $120 million at Texas A&M.

• Kevin Crass, the new trustee who is also chairman of the War Memorial Stadium Commission, made sure to point out to Yurachek his thoughts that Central Arkansas games are great, presumably in hopes of landing the basketball games that can’t be played at BWA during renovation.

They better hope to get the tv coverage worked out if they have any hope of that happening, lol.


So that would fit with my guesstimate of 17,000-ish for the new capacity.

Bridgestone Arena was built in '96 and revamped in 2007, so not much newer than BWA. Its hockey capacity for the Preds is 17,159, and for concerts is 19,891; presumably the hoops capacity is somewhere in between (NHL rink is 200 x 85; hoops floor is more like 120 x 60, so you have 40 feet at each end of the court to put seats on top of the ice). Also, capacity of BOK Center in Tulsa is 17-ish for basketball, for an example a little closer to home.

I’m not sure a permanent floor is a BAD thing, but a temp floor would give them more flexibility. You could put the gymnastics stuff on top of the floor as they do in Barnhill, but concerts and other such events would be better on bare concrete, not a covered basketball floor.

I know Kevin and believe he can be good as a trustee, but I worry his emphasis might be too much toward UALR, WMS, and central Ark than toward the flagship campus. He is not a UA grad. He attended Ouachita and went to law school at UALR.

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Of course, central Arkansas and UALR/UAMS need to be represented on the BOT as well, but I agree that Kevin may be a tad too LR-centric. Or a lot. I presume he was appointed by Asa, who I believe dipped his toe into the GSD a time or two.

Speaking of which, is he still chair of the WMS commission? Seems to me like that’s a conflict of interest.

You and I rarely agree on much, but I 100% agree with this. The university is located in Fayetteville, play the games there. I agree on playing numerous non-conference basketball games there, while work is being done.


No. Sarah appointed him. But, yeah, he was chairman of WMS. I don’t think he still is, but he was strongly opposed to moving any LR games to Fayetteville. I’m sure part of that went with the job, but I’m still a bit uncomfortable with his leanings. That quote about the basketball games concerns me. I’m glad to play there when BWA is unavailable, but this was his first BOT meeting and we’re already hearing this. Just something of a red flag to me.

The options for games during the renovation are, IMO:

Simmons Bank Arena. Streaming or not

Pine Bluff, capacity 7600.

Hot Springs, capacity 6200.

Or Barnhill. The capacity has been reduced somewhat for gymnastics and volleyball but not sure exactly how much; of course it used to be 9,000. Video screen blocks off a bunch of seats at one end.

ASWho wouldn’t let us play there but it would be kinda fun to go into Jonesboro and outdraw the Pink Puppies on their home court.

Also, that season would be a good time to play some NC road games, to be returned in the remodeled BWA.

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Bud Walton arena needs a decent sound system. It is pretty bad at this time. It sounds like they are using a “Mr. Microphone” for a PA system. It is not understandable when the PA is used.

A story I read a couple of weeks ago about his appointment listed him as the current War Memorial chairman.

Me too, especially if he’s still on the WMS commission as Matt said.

Haven’t been to a game there in a while, but when I’m watching on TV I can understand Johnny pretty clearly.

It’s bad (the sound)

I can never understand what’s being said by the promotional guy(don’t know his name)

But I can hear the Johnny George OK. With public address

Doesn’t he have only one vote on the BOT or is he some massive power broker?

He only has one vote, but I have no idea how influential he might be. Probably not too influential as a new member, but as his seniority develops and he ultimately becomes chairman, he’ll have a lot of influence

No doubt Athletic Dept is banking all that they can to fund BWA expansion on the front-end. Bond interest rates have risen significantly & much cheaper to save up & pay cash rather than financing. Surprised no mention of outside sponsors/naming rights to help fund BWA. Last estimates I read was approx $100M which sounds low.

Hopefully Barnhill is the interim stadium & not elsewhere. It has served us well thru the decades & it can efficiently accommodate the student body & NWA fan base. Concerned that BOT & decision makers may not look out for the best interests of UofA Fayetteville campus.

Why the need for a new video board at RRS especially after the last & relatively recent expansion?

Would hope that we keep BWA at 19.3k capacity & not reduce to 17k while more premium seating & amenities are added. As NWA population & on campus student body grow & with SEC expansion to include ut & OU, expect demand for seating will also grow - assuming Hogs remain competitive. Understand limited seating means higher ticket prices, but disappointed if UofA prices out a loyal fan base in efforts to grow profits - same as has been happening at Baum.

Added discussion per Morning Arkansas Business Roundup (allocation of $, revenue ceiling & timetable) :
UA Prepares for Upgrades at Bud Walton Arena

The University of Arkansas is looking for an architect and construction firm to renovate and update the 29-year-old Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

  • Under one preliminary concept, only $44 million in deferred maintenance needs would be addressed
  • A second scenario would address maintenance needs, provide more premium seating and enhance student seating
  • The third and final concept would transform the arena into a true multi-purpose facility

Why it matters: The 19,000-seat arena is one of the largest in college basketball, but it has hit a revenue ceiling, and more space would provide a boost.

What’s next: Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek plans to pick a designer and builder this summer, then bring a full proposal to the board of trustees in early 2024.

Grand reopening: Work could begin on the arena in March 2025 with an “ideal” completion date in November 2026.

Not happening. Not possible, really. When BWA was built, it was said that there were more seats close to the floor than any arena in the country. No wasted space. Even the tunnels are small. But that also means there’s nowhere in the existing configuration to cram in more seats, and if you create loge boxes on the south side as the artwork yesterday depicts, that reduces capacity with nowhere else to add more. The only way to add more would be to raise the roof and extend the upper decks back, or a third level, and that would be hideously expensive.

With the need for a new roof, perhaps raising the roof will be considered, subject to feasibility. This expansion needs to accommodate current & changing trends over the next 30+ yrs, especially with no other comparable indoor venues in rapidly growing NWA. Have not read whether UofA is considering any private(for profit) or public funding from local municipalities or Washington County same as other BB stadiums are doing for events other than university sports. Including other municipalities, other than Fayetteville, would be a hard sell.

If you read the story, HY believes in what you might describe as artificial scarcity. If you can sell 19K occasionally, but then people don’t show up (the butts in seats count for any home game this year never reached 17,000), and you have no more room to generate more revenue from the existing inventory, then you cut capacity to what the butts in seats number actually is, and change the mix so that more of those seats are high dollar. In that way, you make more money from fewer seats, and hopefully those ticket holders decide to actually show up (although the traffic and parking issues factor in here as well).

The plan to make BWA a multi-purpose facility as you highlighted above (which basically means concerts) is addressing the needs of NWA. And there is no indication that they’re going to ask Washington County or any other government entity for anything, not that they would get it anyway.