At a Thursday morning press conference, University of Arkansas and Arkansas Parks and Tourism officials announced that Razorback football games will continue at War Memorial Stadium until 2024.
News leaked Wednesday night that the University of Arkansas Razorbacks football team would continue playing at War Memorial Stadium.
UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, UA Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek, Arkansas Parks and Tourism Director Kane Webb and War Memorial Stadium Commission Chairman Kevin Crass spoke about the agreement to keep regular Razorback football games at the stadium.
See Arkansas Money & Politics‘ live video from the event:
The history of War Memorial Stadium is tied into Razorback football, as the team has played at War Memorial in Little Rock since the stadium opened in 1948. The beginning of the 2018 season will be the beginning of 71 years of the Razorbacks playing at the stadium, according to a news release from the University of Arkansas.
“For 70 years, University of Arkansas football games at War Memorial Stadium have been a part of our program’s rich history and our state’s heritage,” Yurachek said in the release. “We are pleased that through our partnership with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, we will be able to continue this Razorback tradition while also ensuring our program is in position to compete successfully in the SEC and nationally. Throughout this process, I sought and listened to many passionate Razorbacks from every corner of our state and beyond. While those conversations provided varying perspectives, they collectively reaffirmed my belief that this state is unified in our desire to see the Razorback program succeed.”
Included in the agreement are three regular-season SEC games and three spring football games. The Razorbacks are set to play the University of Missouri Tigers at War Memorial in the 2019, 2021 and 2023 seasons around the Thanksgiving holiday, dependent on SEC scheduling, the agreement said. Arkansas is required to receive approval from the SEC to play spring football games in Little Rock; SEC rules prevent schools from hosting off-campus games without a waiver, according to the release.
The school received a waiver for its 2018 spring game; it is seeking approval for 2020, 2022 and 2024, the release said.
As part of the agreement between the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, the stadium will have to undergo certain “facility improvements and enhancements” before the 2019 games. These changes include replacing the stadium’s artificial turf, upgrading its network broadcast infrastructure, improving the Wi-Fi, replacing speakers, implementing mobile ticket scanning, developing a traffic plan for cars and pedestrians near the stadium, improving security cameras and revamping the locker rooms.
A Parks and Tourism study from March found that War Memorial needed around $17 million in maintenance work, as previously reported.
The games at War Memorial will also have to hit ticket sales and revenue goals; during the press conference, officials urged Razorback fans to show their support by buying tickets to War Memorial games. According to the agreement, 47,000 tickets must be sold for each regular season football game. Ticket revenue – which must increase over time – is required to hit over $2,100,000 for the 2019 regular season game; $2,300,000 for the 2021 regular season football game and $2,500,000 for the 2023 regular season football game.
In previous years, the University of Arkansas reportedly lost millions when Razorback games were held in Little Rock.
“I think this agreement speaks very highly of the University of Arkansas,” Director of Arkansas Parks and Tourism Kane Webb said in the release. “In an era in which money seems to be the driving force behind every major decision in big-time college athletics – and it doesn’t get any bigger time than SEC football – this wasn’t a money decision. It required an appreciation and understanding of tradition and culture and a willingness to be uniquely Arkansas.”
The next Razorback game at War Memorial is set for Saturday, October, 13, 2018; this game against Ole Miss is part of the previous agreement between UA and War Memorial.
During the press conference, officials spoke about the importance of the University of Arkansas and Razorback football to the state as a whole, not just Northwest Arkansas; the decision to continue Little Rock games was presented as an effort to reach and enrich the state beyond its northwest corner.