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Athletics to support campus academic building

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Athletics to support campus academic building

FAYETTEVILLE– The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees’ committee on buildings and grounds today recommended that the full board approve plans for a new classroom and laboratory building to be constructed in Fayetteville on the University of Arkansas campus. Trustees will act on the committee’s recommendation tomorrow during the board’s business meeting in Little Rock. According to U of A Chancellor G. David Gearhart, construction of the new building will be funded primarily by revenues generated through the university’s membership in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The creation of a new bowl game featuring the SEC and the Big 12 champions, the new four-team college football playoff and the potential additional revenue from the recent expansion of the SEC are all anticipated additional revenues for conference members. “This building is our most urgent need on campus,” Gearhart explained. “Its construction will serve thousands of U of A students in the immediate future and for decades to come. Our faculty have signaled the importance of this building due to the huge increase in our student population. We simply must have more space for classrooms and labs.” Enrollment at the University of Arkansas has increased by over 6,000 students in just four years, Gearhart noted. The University expects to increase enrollment in the near future to 28,000 students. With board approval, the university may now proceed with steps necessary for the building’s design and construction. The new building will be located on West Dickson Street, across from the Bell Engineering Building. The university anticipates that the new classroom and laboratory building will be ready for occupancy in 2015. Under the plan, $1.25 million of the university’s annual share of SEC revenues would be used each year toward amortizing approximately $18 million in bonds for the construction of the facility. It is estimated that the building will cost between $18 million and $25 million. Any additional financing requirements beyond the $18 million amount will come from reserve funds and from refinancing existing bonds that took advantage of lower interest rates, Gearhart explained. “Because of these funding sources, we will not have to use any new student tuition dollars or student fees to build this much-needed facility,” Gearhart said. “This is a unique situation for the university and for our Razorback Athletics program,” Gearhart explained. “Jeff Long [vice chancellor of intercollegiate athletics] and I share a belief that in certain situations, such as when conference affiliation leads to sustained and potentially significant growth in athletics-related revenues, it is in the best interest of our students and the taxpayers to invest a limited portion of those revenues in long-term infrastructure improvements that benefit the entire student body as well as our faculty. We fully agree that the University of Arkansas’ ability to attract, retain, and graduate students–including those who compete as student-athletes–depends first and foremost on academic quality, accessibility, and affordability.” “We belong to the strongest and most financially viable athletic conference in the nation,” Long added. “The continued success of the SEC both athletically and financially will provide us a means of relieving our students and their families from the burden of paying for this new building.” “Of the hundreds of Division I colleges and universities in the U.S., the University of Arkansas is one of only 22 schools that do not use student tuition or taxpayer dollars to support intercollegiate athletics. Furthermore, we are one of and even smaller number of Division I schools that do not charge students a fee dedicated to supporting athletics. Those practices will not change,” Gearhart said. Gearhart added, “The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics does a stellar job in managing its resources and I am deeply grateful to Jeff for making these funds available to the broader university community.”



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