FAYETTEVILLE Officials from the War Memorial Stadium Commission and the University of Arkansas announced an amendment to their existing contract in a Tuesday news conference at the stadium.
The new contract calls for one game per season in Little Rock through the 2018 season. The first game of the new agreement will be next season against Georgia.
Arkansas was previously under contract to play two games per season, including one conference game, at the stadium through 2016. Officials said the UA will pay War Memorial $400,000 annually the next three years to offset the cost of lost games in addition to a $75,000 rental fee per game.
The announcement comes a little over two months after UA athletics director Jeff Long said there “isn't much urgency for the two sides to address it immediately,” regarding future scheduling at the stadium.
“I think we’ve ended up with an agreement that, like in most partnerships, is mutually beneficial for both,” War Memorial Stadium Commission Chairman Kevin Crass said.
The new agreement calls for the Razorbacks to play two conference games and three nonconference games in Little Rock over the next five years.
No specific games have been scheduled at the stadium past the 2014 season, Long said, and the two sides haven't discussed playing in Little Rock past 2018. Long said Arkansas loses around $1 million in revenue for nonconference games at War Memorial Stadium and approximately $1.3 million for conference games, but added the amended contract was not financially motivated.
Pre-existing contracts for games scheduled in Little Rock, such as a Sept. 3, 2016 game against Louisiana Tech, will have to be examined, Long said.
Long said earlier this year that he planned to honor the previous agreement between the two sides. The Razorbacks have played games in Little Rock for decades, but the number was narrowed to two per season beginning in 2003.
The sides restructured the contract in 2008 to add two years through 2016. A previous deal called for Arkansas to play three games in Little Rock two times prior to 2014.
“We’re also anticipating changes in 2016,” Long said. “It’s no secret that the [Southeastern Conference] is looking at the possibility of nine-game conference scheduling. And that puts additional pressures on us with our scheduling. This agreement will allow [Arkansas] the flexibility to deal with that future. Whatever it may be. But we do know it's coming.”
The decision comes on the heels of one of the lowest-attended games at the stadium since Arkansas joined the SEC. Announced crowds of 47,348 and 45,198 watched games this year there against Samford and Mississippi State.
Season ticket sales at the 53,955-seat stadium dropped drastically in 2012 when the Razorbacks moved their home game against LSU to Fayetteville for the first time in 20 years. The LSU game was played in Little Rock nine times from 1994 to 2010, serving as an incentive for fans to buy a separate season ticket package for War Memorial Stadium.
Scheduling for games in Little Rock became more complicated when Arkansas re-entered into an agreement to play Texas A&M annually at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas beginning in 2014. Under the old War Memorial Stadium agreement, the Razorbacks would have only been able to play two on-campus SEC games in 2015.
Read more about this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.