A legislative panel Friday approved the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's proposed $125,000 contract with a Texas-based company to study the potential for a college football program.
The university's proposed contract with Conventions, Sports & Leisure of Plano, Texas, required clarity from the Arkansas Legislative Council's review subcommittee Wednesday to determine that the study differed from a $160,000 feasibility study by the same company that is currently surveying the future of War Memorial Stadium, which a potential UALR football team would occupy.
The stadium study will explore venue possibilities and requirements other than those necessary for a UALR football team, while the football study will be dedicated to finding the requirements of such a program.
The subcommittee's written report to the legislative panel said the study would provide 10-year projection scenarios "based on potential revenue, potential enrollment impact, economic impact on the city of Little Rock, alumni involvement" and comparisons with other collegiate athletic departments that don't have a football program.
UALR will pay $53,500 with private funds; the city of Little Rock will pay $41,500; and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism will pay $30,000.
The panel's approval passed without comment, although there had been plenty of conversation prior to the meeting.
"It was going to pass," said state Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, who did not vote on the matter. "Everybody knows the score. A bunch of us talked about it before we showed up today. If they think they need this study to tell us what we all know, then I think 'Have the study.' But I certainly wasn't going to vote for it. But I didn't vote against it, either."
Hester said he opposes taxpayer funding for War Memorial Stadium -- which Gov. Asa Hutchinson has proposed cutting roughly in half to $447,647 in fiscal 2019, which starts July 1, 2018 -- and a UALR football program could help the venue become self-sustainable.
"If the university wants to pay that, or if someone else wants to pay it, I think it's great," said Hester, who is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, voted to approve the study of a football program, which would exist in her district, saying afterward a football team could be a local economic driver that warranted a closer look.
"However, whatever the feasibility study says, I hope we follow that with fidelity and make good, sound decisions," she said.
According to the contract, a recommendation and results report must be submitted no later than six months after the contract is awarded -- which sets the timetable for spring.
Wichita State released a similar report in 2016, which showed it would take a start-up cost of $40 million and a $6 million annual budget to restart its football program that had last played in 1986.
UALR's study, both Elliott and Hester said, will at least provide public certainty of what the cost will be.
"More information is rarely bad," Hester said. "And so, if a $125,000 study keeps us from making a $50 million mistake, then I think it's not terrible."
Sports on 10/21/2017
Print Headline: UALR football study pact OK'd