Long Lists Priorities in Plan

Jeff Long told the Northwest Arkansas TD Club his priority list for building new facilities. Some items probably will wait on targeted donations.

Jeff Long's presentation Wednesday at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club meeting provided a priority rating for the list of facilities on the athletic department's master plans unveiled last week in conjunction with a decision on where to put a new football operations building.

The football operations building is the only piece to the puzzle that has a commitment from the UA athletic director to move forward. The rest -- except maybe closing in the north end of the football stadium with mostly premium seats -- are contingent on specific donor gifts.

"The bowling in of the stadium is in a different category because it's the only one that produces revenue and that means you can bond it," Long said. "The other items, the truth is, are probably going to be donor directed."

Last week Long did present plans at a news conference that focused on a new football center that would include locker rooms, training room, equipment room, student-athlete lounge, study area, team meeting rooms, recruiting reception area and a football museum. It's location would be on the current practice field, connected to Walker Pavilion.

Long also presented a master facilities plan showing a new footprint of buildings across the campus, noting changes in many of the current facilities. But many of them are probably on the back burner and may not be funded for many years. So what is the priority list?

"The football operations facility is first," he said. "Next, it's probably 2A and 2B, a new academic center and a basketball practice facility. Third, it's the baseball/track additions at the Tyson Indoor Track Center."

Long said the changes in the north end zone with seats connected to the Broyles Center are not an immediate need, but fund raising isn't going to hold that construction back.

"There is a demand for premium seats, both suites and club chair back like we have in the south end zone," Long said. "We have 134 suites now and there is a waiting list. When we do have one come available, it's snapped up very quickly. We could move forward on this because it is going to generate funds."

That doesn't mean it's going to happen anytime soon. Long emphasized that there are no architecture drawings of the north end zone bowl.

"The firm that brought in the master plan did bring us some thoughts on what to do with the north end of the stadium, but it was only just pictures and they took those back with them," Long said. "We have hired a firm to develop plans for the football operation center. But we don't have any plans of any other facility. We'd hire someone to do them if we got to that point."

Long said there is no timeline for any new construction. He said the process is clear, though.

"We are going to raise funds for the football center," he said. "That's the big piece. We need between $24-25 and $32 million. It's hard to say how much with these preliminary plans. When we get to a level of funds (secured), we'd take the plans to the university facilities planning board. Then, we'd take that decision to the Board of Trustees.

"Then, we'd go back through the process of planning again with final designs, then go through those approval steps again. We'd hope that we'd start (building) sometime in 2011. The construction phase will take 18 to 24 months. So we are a couple of years down the road."

When that building is complete, Long said they centralize the athletic department by moving some branches back to the Broyles Center.

"We'd move marketing, media relations and ISP back to the Broyles Center," he said, noting that there are arms of the women's administration that would stay in the Lewis Center.

The current Broyles Center would probably look a little different. The north end zone seats would probably sit in the area now located by the indoor workout area, with the top level of the Broyles Center standing just above it.

"One of the things we need is a way to connect the east and west stands, a concourse for fans to walk back and forth," he said. "Right now, it's a maze to get from the east to the west through the south end zone. The level you'd see of the Broyles Center would be that level where the top windows are now. But the current Broyles Center would be renovated and stay there. We want to improve the game day locker room and still have the team run out though the "A" onto the field."

Among the other items in the master plan for facilities include additional tennis courts, improvements at the softball stadium and a multi-purpose facility for gymnastics, volleyball, graduation and concerts that could replace what is fast becoming an outdated Barnhill Arena.

"We don't have drawings on any of these," Long said. "It's all preliminary and much of it can change. I hope what you will take away from all of this is that we believe in planning. We want to plan for what's next."

Among the questions asked by members of the TD club concerned why more concerts were not held in Bud Walton Arena.

"We've talked about it, but before we do that we need a practice facility," Long said. "To have a major concert, it takes a three-day window for setup and take down. Our men's and women's teams need that arena for practice from October until April."

The practice facility for basketball is a catch-up need.

"We're behind the curve today," Long said. "Are we going to fall further behind? I don't know. I think the majority of the SEC schools have one or are in the process of getting one. It's important to us but we have to prioritize and then it's going to depend on supporters and those that have the means to donate to us to do that."

Long said the baseball/track facility is important because baseball is a money maker.

"Baseball does produce revenue," Long said. "Now it depends on how you look at the numbers and what you add in, but baseball is doing very well. We're very fortunate to have baseball that creates a significant amount of revenue and we hope to do more in the future. Most programs have football and men's basketball and everything else is supplemented by those two sports. Baseball gives us a real chance. This does make the possibility of a baseball facility more feasible because it does generate some revenue."

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