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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, left, and Kane Webb on Feb. 2, 2017, at War Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Benjamin Krain)

No one knows for certain if the Arkansas Razorbacks will continue playing games at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium after 2018.

The announcement Wednesday that the Razorbacks would complete the current contract with a marquee game against Ole Miss on Oct. 13, 2018, during the 70th anniversary celebration of War Memorial Stadium may, or may not be, the swan song in the grand history of the Razorbacks in Little Rock.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, officials at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, which operates the stadium, have said they will continue to discuss the possibility of games in Little Rock.

Interim UA Athletic Director Julie Cromer Peoples said last week that she and Chancellor Joe Steinmetz will keep working toward a long-term recommendation for their partnership with War Memorial Stadium.

"If I could just say, I find the time we spend down in Little Rock to encapsulate some of the best things about this state, and some of the best things about the history of this state," Cromer Peoples said. "I've been able to go to each of the games in Little Rock during my tenure here, and every time I meet more people that have stories about their memories and their time there.

"Whether it's someone growing up in Little Rock or someone who is able to get to the Little Rock game because of the part of the state in which they reside. So I think it's an important part of our history."

In an emailed statement, Steinmetz wrote, "We will continue until we reach the resolution of this issue."

A university spokesman said it would be accurate to infer that Steinmetz does not believe discussions will be delayed due to Athletic Director Jeff Long's dismissal on Nov. 15.

Trustee Cliff Gibson, a Monticello attorney who favors keeping Razorback games in Little Rock, said Long made it clear during one-on-one presentations to board members last month that he wanted to see the practice discontinued.

The presentation, given by Long and Steinmetz, estimated War Memorial Stadium will require between $4.9 million and $10 million in upgrades📄 to continue hosting Razorbacks games, according to copies of PowerPoint slides the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette obtained through an open-records request.

The slideshow also included five pages of "benefits" and seven pages of "challenges" to playing in Little Rock.

"[Long] was convinced that there not be any more Little Rock games," Gibson said. "That was fair. He had reasons, statistics, if you will. ... He had reached the conclusion that was not in the best interest of Razorbacks athletics."

Long also presented the information to Hutchinson and Kane Webb, director of the parks and tourism department. During the meeting, Hutchinson asked Long to stop the presentation, Webb said.

"[Hutchinson] said, 'OK, I think I've seen most of the rest of this. Let's talk about something else,' " Webb said. "We talked about other things" related to the War Memorial Stadium contract.

Webb declined to discuss the conversation in detail.

"We don't have all day, so it was kind of, like, moving it along," said Webb, emphasizing there was no animosity. "We wanted to keep having a conversation."

Webb said Long appeared to have an "open mind" about the issue.

"My general impression was that Jeff was looking at the numbers, and he had decided that the numbers had added up to keeping the game in Fayetteville," Webb said. "He never said that explicitly at any time we talked. ... He was keeping an open mind pending what the board wanted him to do."

Gibson said he never discussed the future of Little Rock games with Long or Steinmetz "in the context of Mr. Long's employment." He referred a question about whether Long's perceived stance may have factored into his dismissal to Steinmetz.

"No," Steinmetz said in an emailed statement. "It wasn't an issue."

Two other trustees -- Tommy Boyer and Mark Waldrip -- said they felt Long had not reached a conclusion but was sharing information for them to analyze. Both said Steinmetz would decide the future of games in Little Rock.

Boyer, a former All-American Razorback basketball player, said his understanding is the negotiations were trending toward the idea of playing one football game in Little Rock every other year. However, he stressed that he had not heard an update in a few weeks.

When asked, Webb didn't specifically say whether the alternating year idea has been seriously considered.

"There have been talks about everything concerning War Memorial Stadium," Webb said. "Nothing is off the table or on the table."

Boyer said he supports keeping Little Rock on the Razorbacks' schedule.

"I don't live in Little Rock -- that puts me out in left field," Boyer said. "I think the governor has requested that the game be continued. I'm inclined to think that the game should be continued at this point in time. I think we need to continue the game."

Waldrip, who lives in Moro, said he doesn't have a firm opinion about whether Little Rock games should continue.

"It's a complex issue with numerous considerations," Waldrip said. "It requires a lot of analysis to be able to reach a decision."

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism has commissioned a stadium feasibility study with Frisco, Texas-based Conventions, Sports & Leisure. Webb said that study, originally expected in December, could be delayed by the UA shakeup.

"At this point, everything is up in the air," Webb said. "Before, we knew who we were dealing with, and now we don't. That's just life, man. We'll be fine. We have a good story to tell."

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Sports on 11/24/2017

Print Headline: Hogs’ LR games remain a possibility

Comments

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  • HenryP
    November 24, 2017 at 10:39 a.m.

    The Hogs need a LR game for recruiting but the state will have to spend a ton of money to bring the old stadium up to SEC standards. It is time for that one game to be against Arkansas State and keep the money at home....

  • Delta2
    November 24, 2017 at 11:01 a.m.

    Keeping a game in LR is keeping UAF in the bottom tier of the SEC. Like it or not, the rest of the league hates the venue and uses it as negative recruiting. SEC Football is about (amongst other things) the campus atmosphere on gameday. If UAF is continuing it's annual road trip to Jerry World, it can't afford to squander any other home games if it wants to make the jump to the next level. I don't completely disagree with HenryP's suggestion about ASU, but I have a feeling ASU would be willing to drive to NW Ark annually if UAF would just quit dodging them.

  • Goad
    November 24, 2017 at 11:15 a.m.

    Long has priced Arkies out of the games w/tickets & donations being raised and cutting games in LR. At least hotels in Little Rock don’t require 2 nite stays & raise prices to scalping level.

  • Delta2
    November 24, 2017 at 11:18 a.m.

    Goad, the hotel thing happens in just about every college town across the country. I hate it too but it's a fact of life.

  • NoUserName
    November 24, 2017 at 12:39 p.m.

    Not a Hog fan. Not a native Arkansan. But when I moved here I thought it was a nice tip to fans to have games in LR. Indeed, 70% of NWA seats are filled with fans outside of NWA. My team, one that has played for the national championship, plays a couple 'home' games elsewhere - one at the other end of the state. It's ludicrous to think UAF can't complete if they play a game in LR. And if the LR game continues, then I have no doubt it will have played a part in Long being fired.

  • ozena
    November 24, 2017 at 12:56 p.m.

    Let Asa and Kane, and Gibson, run the show. For politicians they just about telling how the cow eat the cabbage. I love it when Asa throwed bureaucrat Long out of that meeting. And he can tell Steinmetz to hit the road, too.

  • mloydcaingmailcom
    November 24, 2017 at 5:46 p.m.

    Ghetto Rock will not invest to upgrade WMS so they might as well remove the end zone seats and make it "right sized" for HS games,ASU and UCA (neither of which can even sell out their own on campus stadiums).

  • Delta2
    November 24, 2017 at 8:48 p.m.

    NoUserName, what is your team that has played for the national championship, and has played "home" games at the other end of its state? Inquiring minds, you know.

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