The Arkansas Board of Trustees gave the Razorback Athletic Department approval Thursday to move ahead with a $160 million stadium expansion.
The project, which focuses on adding premium seating as well as some general seats, elevator towers, a new locker room and training room for game day usage, passed 8-2 with Trustees David Pryor and C.C. “Cliff” Gibson casting the two no votes.
The expansion, which began as a study back in 2008, should add 4,800 seats overall and is expected to be finished before the start of the 2018 season.
A new scoreboard in the South End Zone should go up either late in the 2016 season or certainly before the 2017 season starts.
"I am very pleased," Arkansas vice chancellor and athletic director Jeff Long said on the Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly radio show. "I am pleased for Razorback fans, I am pleased for the future of our program and I think it is really a big project for our program and will help for a long, long time in the future."
The project will be paid for in part by a $120 million bond payment with the estimated bond payments expecting to be $9 million to $10 million a year per Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director Jeff Long.
There will also be about $5 million per year from ticket revenue and the rest of the cost will come from private donations according to Long.
"The North End Zone will provide the seats and the clubs that will generate the revenue," Long said. "It will generate in the neighborhood of $5 more per game, which is more than needed to pay off the debt on the project. Without it, there is no money to do something else with."
The Arkansas athletic program is self-funded and doesn't take any more from the state, taxpayers or away from education.
"We don't get any tuition dollars, we don't get any money from the state, we don't get any student fees," Long said. "We generate everything ourselves. That is why it is important for us to be a strong program and allows us to do the things like suites and clubs that we have demand for. That provides the revenue for us for not only for football, but the other 18 sports that we have in our program.
"...We are one of 24 institutions that are totally self-supported and even less than that who are self-supported to give money back to the campus. We support the university, we support the campus in order to try and help keep those tuition dollars down."
Some 3,600 of the seats will be in suites or clubs.
"The truth is that is what we have demand for," Long said. "The other truth is those seats will help keep prices low for the fans who can't afford those premium seats. It helps us reduce the ticket price in the upper deck. It helps us keep seats in the stadium at a lower price.
"If you look at where Arkansas stands, we are certainly not gouging our fans when you put that in relation to the rest of the SEC. We are still at the lowest end of the spectrum in ticket pricing and suites and clubs."