Changes Announced At Bud Walton Arena

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has found another way to increase revenue from the men's basketball program. Long announced a number of changes to Bud Walton Arena on Thursday, the most notable being the addition of 34 premium courtside seats.

These seats, black cushioned chairs with an arm rest, cup holder and Razorback logo, will be positioned directly across from the benches, mere feet from the sideline. While they aren't cheap — $60,000 per seat buys five seasons — Long said he expected Broyles-Matthews level Razorback Foundation donors to quickly reserve them.

The addition of the premium seats, which will be sold separately for women's basketball games, will produce about $400,000 in additional revenue per season.

"They'll have a unique and special opportunity to be almost part of the action," Long said. "They'll be part of the game, right on the edge of the court, and we're excited about that."

The faulty status of the retractable seating in the bowl of the arena was what sparked the idea for the premium seating, Long said. It was taking too much time to get the retractable seats in and out — in for games, out for practice.

"It had become difficult to retract (those seats), so much that we had times where our basketball programs could practice only with main court," Long said.

So Arkansas decided to fully replace the retractable seating, a process that will be completed for this season and will cost about $1.8 million. Once that decision was made, Long said it was easier to start thinking about reconfiguring seating in the arena. As part of the premium seating plan, members of the media will be moved behind one of the baskets for games.

Other changes announced by Long:

• Bench seating will be installed for the Arkansas student section. The students will essentially remain in the same location in the arena, though they will be moved a little closer to the court. Long said that his ultimate preference would've been to put students around the entire lower bowl, but that he didn't want to relocate loyal, longtime ticket holders.

"It will be an advancement for (the students)," Long said. "I think they'll enjoy not having the individual seats to deal with."

• A continuous LCD messaging ribbon will be installed on the facade that divides the lower and upper bowls in the arena. Advertisements, scores and statistics will be flashed onto the ribbon, the kind that are popular in most professional sports arenas and stadiums. The ribbon will circle the entire arena.

LCD signage will be also be used on the scorer's table. Long estimated that the cost for the LCD projects would range from $900,000 to $1.2 million.

• The entire court will be stripped and replaced with a new floor. A different Razorback logo will appear at midcourt, as well as, the "Classic Hog," as Long called it.

• Both teams will enter and exit the court from the tunnel previously used only by Arkansas' teams.

Arkansas coach John Pelphrey seemed eager to see changes to Bud Walton Arena that could enhance the Razorbacks' home-court advantage.

"We feel fortunate and privileged to work with people who understand that we've got a great environment and we've got to protect it," Pelphrey said. "That's what Jeff and his staff is doing. You wouldn't expect anything else out of the University of Arkansas. It's not surprising to see we're doing these things.

"Hopefully, it's just going to add to an environment that already is one of the most special places in the country."

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