Long Describes Process of Expanding Stadium

Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said the process of closing in the north end zone of the football stadium is still in the informational stage.

The major portions of the master plan that dealt with improvements for student-athletes are close to being done. So, Jeff Long was clear Tuesday that the next phase will deal with improvements for fans.

Front and center, the Arkansas athletic director wants to expand Reynolds Razorback Stadium on the north end zone with premium seats, something research has proven are in much demand. So how quickly can that be done?

"We've been studying it," he said, noting it's a "major" project that will require well over $100 million to build. It's likely that most of that will require bonds and more debt service.

The good news there, Long said, is that debt service remains low compared to other SEC school. The task ahead is to explain all of the aspects of the project and the funding channels to board of trustees and administrators. One obstacle that might lie ahead is that the UA is in a search for a new chancellor.

"We are in the informing stage," Long said. "We'll see if it all comes to fruition."

Long said the project is far enough along that once the green light happens, it's still 18 months to two years before the stadium expansion could be completed. It might take another six months to finish the information stage to get clearance from administration and board of trustees. He sounded like he was confident that the board liked the idea.

"We are caught up on our projects for the student-athletes," he said. "Now we want to look at what's important for the fans."

Some of the more recent items fans should like include a significant up grade to the sound system in the football stadium at a cost of over $500,000.

"I think you'll find a more level sound system for all areas of the stadium," Long said.

There will also be a new product in all stadiums, a new hot dog.

"We have gone to Ball Park Franks," he said. "We think our fans will like that."

Long said there was a recent testing day where 18 different hot dogs were tried.

"There are different levels of hot dogs within brands," he said. "This is a high quality level of hot dogs."

Long was peppered with questions about his work with the College Football Playoffs, where he's the committee chair. He said he looks forward to stepping away from the discussion more this season since it appears the Razorbacks could be involved in the process.

"I did have to do that late last season and I enjoyed that," he said. "I'm proud to step outside the room."

Long was asked if the process will change this season with his involvement as chair in other ways. Apparently, he may be home on more Sundays.

"I was always (in Dallas) for Sunday last year, but I think I understand the process better and there will be some days as we move into the season that I feel like I can do my preparation here and travel on Monday," he said.

However, Long said he's still uneasy about the media part of the responsibility. As spokesman, there's a lot of time on ESPN and other platforms that make him uncomfortable.

"I don't feel any better about that," he said.

Long was quizzed on the recent problems with the basketball team and his support for coach Mike Anderson. He said although Jacorey Williams has been dismissed from the team the other two players facing counterfeit charges are enrolled in school as they face "judification." Long said those situations would be addressed at a later date.

How about the health of the basketball team?

"I think there are a lot of players who are ready to step up and some of those are going to play beyond what some might think they can," Long said, who also said Anderson is a "man of character who has done things the right way without one incident" until this summer. Long said there are "no concerns" with Anderson.

Long delivered an opening statement with a list of accomplishments from the past season including a 16th place finish in the Director's Cup, the highest since joining the SEC. There was also mention of Nathanael Franks winning the SEC's top scholar athlete award for males, the first time since Arkansas joined the SEC. Long also pointed to Andrew Benintendi winning the Golden Spikes award as college baseball's top player.

"Would we put a statue up?" Long said. "We have not had any conversations about that. Certainly, what he did was the highest of any baseball player we've ever had, along the lines of winning the Heisman Trophy. We are going to find a way to recognize Andrew's achievements."

There have been rumors of the football team wearing black helmets. Long said, "I have not seen any black helmets."

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