FAYETTEVILLE – It was a night that was nearly three years in the making. On Friday, Sept. 13, the Fred W. Smith Football Center was officially dedicated in front of hundreds of special guests including the namesake of the beautiful new $40 million home of Razorback Football.
Guests were welcomed by Voice of the Razorbacks Chuck Barrett before Coach Bret Bielema kicked off the official program. During Chancellor Dave Gearhart’s remarks, he presented Mr. Smith with a framed program from the dedication ceremony.
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long later presented Mr. Smith with a commemorative Razorback football helmet. To culminate the program, Smith, Gearhart, Long and Katie Magness, the granpaughter of Smith and a freshman at the University of Arkansas, officially cut the ribbon to dedicate the new facility.
It was October 2010, when Long first announced plans for a new football operations building. At the press conference Long announced that the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation was stepping forward with a $10 million challenge grant to set the first major project in the Razorback Athletics Facilities Master Plan in motion. The challenge was met in August 2011, paving the way for construction of the football center.
At the forefront of that grant was the chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Fred W. Smith. Born in Arkoma, Oklahoma, Mr. Smith had an extensive career in advertising and media before being named Chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in Las Vegas. During his 43 year career at Donrey Media Group, Mr. Smith worked his way through the ranks to become President and COO and CEO of one of the nation’s largest privately held media companies.
Through his work with the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Mr. Smith was instrumental in the university’s securement of several multi-million dollar gifts, including the Steven L. Anderson Design Center within the Fay Jones School of Architecture; the Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development in the Sam M. Walton College of Business; and the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium expansion, Student-Athlete Success Center and the student-athlete Development program, within Razorback Athletics.
On a personal level, Mr. Smith and his wife, the late Mary B. Smith, have contributed to several initiatives at the university, including the Barbara Broyles Caregiving Legacy Fund, the Razorback Athletics Student-Athlete Success Center and the Fred W. and Mary B. Smith Golf Center.&
"Fred Smith has meant so much to our student-athletes, our athletic program, university and state through his leadership of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and his personal philanthropy to Razorback Athletics," Long said. "The admiration and respect Fred enjoys throughout our state was once again demonstrated when several of his peers stepped forward in a major way when they learned of our desire to honor him with the naming of the football center. There is no more fitting way to recognize Fred’s generosity and the Smiths’ love of the Razorbacks than to place his name on our newest and most essential football facility for our student-athletes and coaches."
The 80,000 square-foot Fred W. Smith Football Center includes a spacious locker room, team meeting rooms, training room, equipment room, a student-athlete lounge and study area, coaches’ offices, a recruiting reception area and football displays celebrating the tradition of Razorback Football. In the fall of 2012 as part of the football center project, two new practice fields and a parking deck were completed south of the Walker Family Training Center providing the football team with spectacular new practice venues and university faculty and students with approximately 225 covered parking spaces.
"As I have become more and more acquainted with Fred W. Smith it is apparent to me in our conversations he and his family are extremely proud of the University of Arkansas and all it represents," Bielema said. "They have been long-time fervent advocates of the Razorbacks and the entire state. He is a man of few words and lots of action and his generosity has once again demonstrated a strong devotion to our mission of winning championships. I am a big believer in preparing student-athletes for football and for life and I am pleased Fred W. Smith’s name is associated with the facility that will amplify our focus in these areas for countless future Razorbacks."