2000 Pulitzer nominee School & University Life

Tossing a Hot Political Football

Loose Leaves, 1st run Tuesday 7 December 1999 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 1999 Donrey Media Group

The Dissociated Press

DATELINE MIRTHOLOGY — Not to be outdone with the University of Arkansas football field becoming Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium after a $20 million gift from the late publisher’s charitable foundation last week, War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock yesterday received a pledge of $20.00001 million from the Donenough Foundation.

Gus Donenough, foundation president, said he would buck the trend of naming facilities after the major donor and instead use the privilege to remember a hero.

The expanded and renovated capital stadium will be named after De Soto’s first mate, Eugene D. Bidding.

Hernando De Soto, the Spanish explorer, discovered Arkansas in 1541. Bidding, an Englishman, went AWOL and founded Arkansas Post, which was either a town or a newspaper, but not both.

Renovation is estimated to be complete in eight weeks on Bidding War Memorial Stadium. Its only new feature will be the billboard-size sign out front.

The Donenough Foundation said the pledge comes with a catch.

He insists that for his $20.00001 million that Bill Clinton, at the end of his presidential term, return to Arkansas and finish his gubernatorial term.

Clinton resigned in early 1992, with some two years left to serve solely the state of Arkansas, having promised while running for governor in 1990 that he would serve all four years.

Of course, Clinton didn’t really resign but took an unpaid leave, Donenough said. Clinton’s fingers were crossed.

This was not so he could return to the Governor’s Mansion in January 2001 but so he’d have a job in case he lost in ’92 to then-President George Bush the Elder.

When asked about current Gov. Mike Huckabee do, Gus Donenough said he could run for Congress, adding, “On the other hand, he could announce a sabbatical then return in January 2003 and be a hero by cleaning up the mess that Clinton might make.”

The Reynolds Foundation gives generously and mostly to medical and academic arenas. Earlier this decade, it gave $25 million for geriatrics studies at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Ironically UAMS, a day after the Fayetteville stadium gift was announced, declared its budget would be short $13 million and that layoffs will be likely.

One cost-cutting effort announced was to close the employee day-care center.

Two reasons were cited for UAMS’s shortfall. The first was a change in federal health-care benefit regulations and the second was the ongoing cost of caring for uninsured and indigent patients at the school’s University Hospital.

Meanwhile, back in Fayetteville, Athletic Department chieftains said little about costs to the university’s and city’s infrastructure coming from the increase from about 50,000 seats to more than 70,000 and eventually 80,000 spots in bleachers, skyboxes and a new standing area for groundlings.

“Where are the extra 20,000 fans going to park their 10,000 cars?” wondered Gus Donenough.

Athletic Director Frank Broyles has a solution for parking. He said that he wanted the new parking deck, the Parkenon, to be expanded.

“Every year, we can add another story to the deck, which would be another maybe 100 parking spots. By the time it gets up to 10,000 parking spaces, we’re going to have some landmark, let me tell you.”

Broyles added that the way to fund the parking was to continue the university’s famous and revered Senior Walk in the deck, with each new layer of parking paid by that year’s graduating class, as the official senior gift.

The UA Physical Plant employees will engrave the names of the graduates.

The university previously announced plans to play most of its home football games at home. Currently, half are in Fayetteville and half in Little Rock. Money remains a problem. The new Reynolds Razorback Stadium must be used year-round.

For example, students will be admitted for $1 apiece during the winter to see closed-circuit telecasts of the some 12 to 14 home Razorback basketball games (played in Bud Walton Arena) on the stadium’s giant Jumbotron television screen.

Broadcast rights would be offered to Bidding War Memorial Stadium.

Also, Reynolds Razorback Stadium now will be big enough to attract the nation’s top musical artists, such as Thrasher, Assault by Battery, the Artist Formerly Known as Madonna and Garth Brooks.

The rock shows usually will be held on weekdays in Fayetteville because major acts reserve weekends for big cities like St. Louis and Dallas.

With ear-splitting concerts coming in once or twice a week, and with the huge rent and concession income they produce, the UA may be the first college anywhere to lower tuition. Then again, it may not.

Donenough, speaking in Fayetteville about his Little Rock project, noted Bidding War Memorial Stadium will not be left behind in year-round bookings.

That stadium lies next to the beleaguered Little Rock Zoo. The zoo has had accreditation problems despite the recently built primate enclosure and new, four-star gourmet concession stand.

The Donenough Foundation has offered to create a friendly habitat for the zoo’s lions and other big cats — in the stadium.

“Exhibiting lions in stadia has been popular since at least the Romans,” noted Gus Donenough.

With the lions on the gridiron, Northwest Arkansans will have a reason to visit Little Rock, and eat in its restaurants and stay in its lodges, thus helping repay the football loss to the Central Arkansas hospitality industry. Which may or may not be the same as the tourism industry.

“Finally, something for everybody,” Donenough said.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email