When fans arrive at Bud Walton Arena next season, they'll find the place has had a face-lift.
That's what University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said Thursday during a press conference about upcoming changes to the arena.
It will include courtside premium seating and a Courtside Club for those who purchase those seats, new retractable seating, LED signage around the court, new bleacher seating for the students, a new media area on the baseline, a brand new court and the Classic Hog making a return to mid-court.
"Certainly the crowds that pack Bud Walton Arena have made a significant home court advantage for the Razorbacks and we have worked and thought and planned to enhance that," Long said.
UA head coach John Pelphrey is certainly on board with the changes.
"From our standpoint, this is our home and anything that we do to make it better, you certainly feel very fortunate and privliged to work with people who know we have great environment and we have to protect it. That's what Jeff and his staff is doing.
"You really wouldn't expect anything else out of the University of Arkansas because we have had great basketball and a great facility," Pelphrey added. "So it is not surprising we are doing these things, the enhancements to our arena."
All these improvements – at the cost of 1.8 million dollars - got a jumpstart because Arkansas' retractable seating was not living up to its name anymore.
"One of the things I was faced with almost immediately when I got here – because it was basketball season – was our retractable seating at Bud Walton Arena," Long said. "The retractable was not working properly. It had become difficult to retract and we had times when our basketball programs could only practice with the main court. We saw that as something that we needed to address as quickly as possible.
"We have plans to reconstruct and replace those seats this summer and when we made the decision to do that it also provided us some other opportunities to enhance Bud Walton Arena," Long added.
The premium seating – which has become a trend at many NBA and college arenas will come at a price of total price of $60,000 over a span of five years.
That's a initial 20,000 contribution to join the Courtside Club, which is payable over 5 years. The seats themselves will then cost 8,000 per season.
"We will be adding what we call premium courtside seats," Long said. "We will have 34 seats that will be on the sidelines across from the benches. We will be selling those seats to our Broyles Matthews level Razorback Foundation members."
As you might imagine, not just anybody can get in on the new seating, which will also allow them to enter a club area for pregame and halftime beverages and food.
"Some 800 letters have gone out to our Broyles Matthews members today and they will have a unique opportunity and a very special opportunity to be really almost part of the action," Long said. "What we will have to do is make sure those fans know they can't become part of the action, but they will certainly be part of the game right there on the court."
Long says there will be 17 seats on each side of a televlsion broadcast table, which will be placed where the visiting teams used to come out of a tunnel.
Both teams will now come out of the East tunnel.
The media is being move to eight rows of a new work area on the East baseline, just off where the band is located.
The student section will also be updated with bench seating instead of the individual chairs that have been the norm.
"We want our students down there, we want them involved, they have been, and we think providing them these bench seats will encourage stand even longer and be part of the action,' Long said.
There are also new advertising and thus revenue opportunities with the new signage.
"We are going to be adding courtside LED signage at the scorer's table and also be adding what we call ribbon boards - which are LED boards that circle the arena facing the court."
The Bud Walton Arena floor is due for a fix-up.
"We saw the need to strip and resurface the Bud Walton Arena court," Long said. "It's something we do on regular basis, but we haven't done totally stripping down to the orginal wood, maybe since we moved into Bud Walton. We felt we were overdue for that process."
Since they are doing that, the Slobbering Hog is coming off the floor and the Classic One taking his place.
"We saw an opportunity as we bring our two athletic programs together as one, saw an opportunity to unify our brand and branding of our athletic program," Long said. We will be replacing the former Hog "Those of who have been here for years know there has been an evolution of our Hog and we will be putting down what we consider our classic Hog."
There may be some changes to the pre-game atmosphere, something that Long said is being looked at now.
Pelphrey thinks the signage is going to add to the atmosphere and is no doubt something he can sell to recruits.
"The ribbon thing around the arena, the new boards on the press level, that is going to be awesome," Pelphrey said. "You see a lot of that now in TV and it stands out most to me in baseball – the view behind the pitcher and behind the batter. That's pretty cool and now we are going to have that in our arena, give it a little bit of a pro atmosphere a little bit with those types of seating available.
"I think it is awfully exciting to be honest with you and hopefully it is going to add to an environment that is already one of the most special places in the country."
Jeff Long with the new premium seat
Walton Arena Facelift
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