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Razorback Road: Home to champions and championship events

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Razorback Road: Home to champions and championship events

Earlier this week, the NCAA announced the University of Arkansas would be the host of four championship events beginning in 2014. Arkansas will be home to a 2014 and 2016 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Regional, the 2015 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships and a 2017 NCAA Gymnastics Regional.

With 43 national championships and hundreds of conference titles to its credit, the University of Arkansas has long been known for its athletic success and championship teams. A regular in the top-25 of the Learfield Sports Directors Cup, the Razorbacks routinely are competing for SEC and national championships in many of the 19 sport programs.

However, in the past 20 years, the University of Arkansas has also developed a championship reputation when it comes to playing host to the nation’s best student-athletes. Since entering the Southeastern Conference in 1992, the University of Arkansas has hosted 81 SEC, regional and national competitions, including 26 in the last five years alone. In addition to the four championships announced on Wednesday, the University of Arkansas is already scheduled to host a 2014 NCAA Gymnastics Regional at Barnhill Arena, on April 5.

The University of Arkansas has always welcomed championship events, however, it was the construction of the Randal Tyson Track Center in 2000 that helped firmly entrench Fayetteville as one of the nation’s prime championship destinations. Of the 81 championship events since 1992, 61 of those have been contested since 2000.

The Randal Tyson Track Center will host the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships for the 12th time in 2015. Since the facility opened, Arkansas has hosted the event 11 times, including nine straight seasons and 11 of the last 13 championships. The Randal Tyson Center, home to the fastest indoor track in the world, will host the 2015 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Championships, March 13-14, 2015.

While the Randal Tyson Track Center has been at the forefront of post-season competition, it is far from the only venue on the University of Arkansas to host championships. Since 2002, all 18 sports eligible to host SEC or NCAA championship competition have done so. Only football doesn’t provide an opportunity to host championship events on campus.

Arkansas will host the 2014 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Regionals on Nov. 14, 2014 at the Razorbacks’ home course at AGRI Park. The 2016 NCAA Regionals are set for Nov. 11, 2016 and will also be held at AGRI Park. The regionals will mark the third and fourth times, the University of Arkansas has hosted an NCAA Cross Country regional at AGRI Park with the previous events coming in 2007 and 2012.

Barnhill Arena, on the University of Arkansas campus, has quickly become a familiar stop on the way to the NCAA Gymnastics Championship. For the fifth time in its history, Arkansas will host a NCAA Gymnastics Regional on April 1, 2017. Barnhill Arena served as a home site for regionals in 2006, 2009 and 2012 and is already scheduled to host again in 2014 (April 5). The first three times the Razorbacks have hosted, they have advanced to the NCAA Championship. In two of those years, 2009 and 2011, Arkansas reached the NCAA Super Six.

A recent study estimated the annual economic impact of Razorback Athletics to be more than $153.6 million annually. The same study estimated the total economic impact of the program to exceed more than $1 billion in the next five years. Championship events mean local hotel rooms are filled, restaurants are packed and area businesses thrive. That is a winning combination for everyone.

Long before student-athletes, coaches, officials and visitors arrive in Northwest Arkansas, a dedicated team of Razorback athletic department staff members, part-time workers, volunteers and community organizers, work together to make the championship experience a rewarding one. From organizing hospitality areas to providing participation gifts, the championship team works to provide every participant with fond championship memories regardless of the results of the competition.

That commitment recently earned the University of Arkansas national recognition. The 2013 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by the University of Arkansas, was honored with a 2013 SportsTravel Award. The two-day event held at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas was selected as the best collegiate multi-sport or multi-discipline event in the nation by SportsTravel Magazine.

This week’s announcement of four additional NCAA events awarded to the University of Arkansas only re-affirmed what is already well established. When it comes to hosting championship events, the venues along Razorback Road are some of the nation’s prime destinations.

Razorback Road is a weekly column published on Thursdays by Associate Athletic Director for Public Relations Kevin Trainor. Trainor is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and has worked for Razorback Athletics for more than 20 years.



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