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story.lead_photo.caption War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock is shown in this aerial file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staton Breidenthal)

A state council has awarded a $900,000 grant to the Division of State Parks for renovations and upgrades at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council decided Wednesday to distribute $27.3 million in conservation and historic preservation grants to fund 22 requests from six state agencies, 11 colleges and universities, and the treasurer's office for fiscal 2021, which starts July 1, according to state records.

The council received 24 requests seeking a total of $32.8 million for fiscal 2021, the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism's records show.

The parks division was awarded $9 million for park improvements, including $900,000 for War Memorial Stadium renovations and upgrades, and $9 million to the Division of Arkansas Heritage for various improvement projects.

Historically, the council aimed to grant one-third of the available funding to the then-Parks and Tourism Department and one-third to the then-Arkansas Heritage Department.

On July 1, the two departments were merged under Gov. Asa Hutchinson's reorganization of state government that consolidated 42 executive branch agencies into 15 departments. Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Parks, Heritage and Tourism Department, and Jimmy Bryant, director of the Division of Arkansas Heritage, are among the council's 11 members.

State law directs the council to use its funds -- from a real estate transfer tax -- for the acquisition, management and stewardship of state-owned lands or the preservation of state-owned historic sites, buildings, structures or objects. The council also can spend money on objects determined to be of value for recreational or conservation projects.

Under a contract between the state and the University of Arkansas, a number of improvements must be made to War Memorial Stadium to accommodate future athletic events, include Southeastern Conference-sanctioned games, the parks division said in its grant request.

"Miscellaneous repairs and renovations are to include new security systems, improvement to home and visitor locker rooms, upgrades to communication systems, and other general improvements," the request said.

The state already has spent $1.9 million renovating, upgrading and replacing the stadium's infrastructure, Parks, Heritage and Tourism Department spokesman Melissa Whitfield said Friday.

"This [$900,000 project] will be the final phase to meet the requirements of the contract with the U of A," she said.

The project is in the design stage, she said.

"We hope to start construction after the high school football championships around the first of the year," Whitfield said.

The project's completion date is yet to be determined, "but will [be] before the football season of 2021 and well before the Razorback game in November 2021," she said.

The UA football team isn't scheduled to play a game in Little Rock this year. It has played at least one football game in Little Rock for 88 consecutive seasons, including 72 seasons in a row at War Memorial Stadium.

Razorback football is scheduled to return to Little Rock for the 2021 season finale on Thanksgiving weekend against the University of Missouri.

TREASURER'S OFFICE

The Natural and Cultural Resources Council awarded $658,085 to Treasurer Dennis Milligan for the second phase of his project to restore public spaces in the treasurer's office.

In a written statement Friday, Milligan said the grant will be used to complete the historic preservation of the office.

"Not only will this project restore the original look of the Treasurer's office to its appearance of the early 1900s, it will also help us educate the public about the history of the state treasury for generations to come," Milligan said.

Milligan's spokeswoman, Stacy Peterson, said, "We hope to have the project completed by the first of next year."

Last year, the council agreed to provide $997,914 to Milligan's office for the first phase of the project.

The council's other grant awards include:

• $1.6 million to the Arkansas Forestry Commission for the Hot Springs National Park recharge area and Poison Springs State Forest acquisitions.

• $698,060 to Southern Arkansas University for restoration of Bussey Hall.

• $678,461 to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith for the fifth phase of the restoration of the Willhaf House.

• $663,263 to Arkansas State University at Three Rivers in Malvern for restoration of the Ritz Theatre.

• $650,000 to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, for work on John A. White Jr. Engineering Hall.

• $634,594 to the University of Central Arkansas for work on the Bigelow Rosenwald School.

• $586,688 to Henderson State University for restoration of the Captain Henderson house.

• $580,000 to the Arkansas School for the Blind Works Progress Administration hill cottage renovations.

• $422,270 to the Arkansas School for the Deaf for phase four of a restoration project for Parnell Hall.

• $418,349 to Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas for work on the Pillow-Thompson house.

• $392,777 to UA for restoration of the Gibson Annex exterior.

• $372,700 to UA for the Garvan Gardens terraces, trails and bridge project.

• $336,525 to Cossatot Community College of UA for the first phase of the restoration and renovation of Lockesburg Middle School.

• $237,000 to the University of Arkansas Community College at Rich Mountain for the second phase of the renovation of the historic armory in Mena.

• $155,838 to Arkansas State University at Jonesboro for the Lakeport Plantation restoration.

• $137,900 to the Arkansas School for the Blind for the third phase of the Works Progress Administration infirmary project.

• $73,014 to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for compact shelving for preservation of and access to manuscript collections.

• $35,628 to UALR for a project involving the 1979-80 Arkansas Constitutional Convention and citizen participation in the public process.

• $15,000 to the state Military Department for conservation of the World War II 206th Coast Artillery Regiment flag.

Metro on 06/06/2020

Print Headline: $900,000 awarded for arena upgrades

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