Arkansas begins its 18th season in Bud Walton Arena – The Basketball Palace of Mid-America in 2011-12.
When Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference in August of 1990, then Razorback Men’s Athletic Director Frank Broyles knew the athletic facilities had to be upgraded to contend in America’s most nationally competitive league.
His attention turned immediately to basketball. The men’s basketball team had been very successful, coming off a Final Four trip earlier that year, but they, along with the women’s team, played in 9,000-seat Barnhill Arena. One day, Bud Walton, co-founder of Wal-Mart, visited Broyles and asked him what Arkansas needed most to be competitive in the SEC. Broyles mentioned the need for additional basketball seats and was asked by Walton what a new arena would cost. The figure $30 million was discussed and Walton offered to pay half. From that visit, fabulous Bud Walton Arena was born.
Ground breaking to grand opening was accomplished in a remarkable 18 months. The Razorbacks played in Bud Walton for the first time in November of 1993. Everything went perfectly during the first full year. Not only did Arkansas men’s team sell out the arena, the Razorbacks were unbeaten in their new home (16-0) and won the 1994 national championship.
Bud Walton Arena houses a deluxe museum on the ground level that includes a tribute to Arkansas’ 1994 NCAA Men’s Championship and multiple Final Four appearances by both programs as well as the history of Razorback basketball, track and field, baseball, tennis and golf. Eye-catching displays on the concourse level salute recent Razorback highlights.
The 2004 season marked the debut of a new custom scoreboard in the shape of a basketball hoop. The board, 24 feet, three inches wide by 22 feet tall, features four video screens, each 12 feet, six inches wide by eight feet, 10 inches tall. An LED ring at the top is used to display game statistics.
Enhancements prior to the 2009 season included the addition of courtside seating, electronic signage at the scorer’s table, new retractable seats in the lower level, electronic ribbon boards along the bottom of the upper deck, replacing the Razorback on the court with the classic Razorback logo and opening up the student section by converting it from chairback seats to benches.
Eight suites were added prior to the 2008 season, raising the total to 47.
Changes to the facility took place again for the 2011-12 season, most noticeably, a new paint scheme on the court along with some behind-the scenes updates.
As captivating as the displays, museum and championship banners are hanging from the arena floor’s ceiling, the aspect of the facility demanding the most attention is spirit. Every game still produces an NCAA Tournament-type atmosphere with the exception of the crowd, which is anything but neutral. According to Rosser International in Atlanta, when the arena was built, there were more seats in less space than in any such facility in the world.
It’s no wonder the noise level can be absolutely ear-splitting.
From pre-game to post-game, Bud Walton Arena is perfectly choreographed with the band, spirit groups, lighting system, public address, scoreboard and team. Each game at Walton is a rich experience leaving Razorback fans hungry for more.