The Arkansas Razorbacks are undoubtedly one of the most unique programs in all of college sports. With a mascot unlike any other, an unusual battle cry that rolls through the Ozarks, and an entire state focused fully on the Razorbacks, it’s only fitting that the Hogs have essentially two home stadiums for football.
Since 1948, the Arkansas football team has made the three hour drive to Little Rock to play games in War Memorial Stadium.
To people that aren’t from Arkansas, this may seem like to oddest thing, but to Arkansans, it’s basically tradition.
So why does Arkansas play in War Memorial Stadium you might ask? Well, like many things in this country, it is a result of money and politics.
Little Rock and surrounding areas make up a good majority of the population of the state of Arkansas so as a result, the state legislature representatives are also elected there. Most of the elected officials voted to keep at least two games in Little Rock per year–one out of conference and one SEC game.
Along with politicians, are the big money donors to the University and the athletic department. Take away the games in Little Rock, and they take away a large portion of their annual donation.
While it might seem weird and highly unreasonable, it’s not completely out of the ordinary to have two “home” stadiums, even in the SEC.
Alabama played in Birmingham at Legion field until the 2003 season and Ole Miss and Mississippi State played in Jackson annually until the early 1990’s.
Lately however, it makes no logical sense to keep the games in Little Rock.
War Memorial Stadium holds roughly 55,000 fans –about 20,000 less than in Fayetteville, and is not pleasing to the eye in any way, even with the new press box. Some fans call it an embarrassment for an SEC team to even play in such a venue, especially a conference game.
The Samford game this year brought 47,348 fans, which was the lowest attendance in War Memorial in 11 years. Why would Arkansas continue to play two games a year in such a small stadium that they cannot even sell out?
People who strive to keep games in Little Rock can beg for it all that they want, but the fact is that the University is losing thousands of dollars in revenue every time that they play there.
Not only that, but the football team cannot even host recruits on official visits in Little Rock and the team has to take a three hour bus ride and for a home game.
With the plans for Arkansas and Texas A&M to revive their series in Dallas at AT&T stadium starting next year, that’s another conference game that Fayetteville won’t have every other season.
All of these things make it hard for Jeff Long to try and continue the tradition, but there are just some intangible things that Little Rock has.
Tailgating in Little Rock is unlike any other in the nation. While I wouldn’t put it in the same category as The Grove at Ole Miss, it’s not too far behind.
An aspect that adds to the unique venue of War Memorial Stadium is that it sits right beside a golf course. A golf course that lets anybody and everybody tailgate on it before games. An entire sea of tents is breathtaking and cars are allowed to just drive onto the course, making for a crazy scene and one that Fayetteville cannot duplicate.
Bring all of those people who have been tailgating all day into a full bowl for a night game, and the place can be a hostile environment.
Little Rock is in the very center of the state while the Fayetteville is nestled in the Northwest corner of Arkansas and is quite a drive for people living in the south or east regions of the state. This makes the games in Little Rock a must because for some fans, it’s the only opportunity for them to get to see the Hogs in action, without having to take the long car ride, get a hotel, etc.
Arkansas is the only major sport team in the state and for some, losing the games in Little Rock would distance these fans from a tradition and a first hand view of the state’s team.
The contract that Arkansas has with War Memorial runs out in 2016, but plans are already being heavily talked about on whether to extend the contract or just to do away with the games in Little Rock entirely.
I think that if you were to lose the games in the capital city, there will be too much controversy and angry fans, but I honestly don’t see the logical need to continue to play games there.
The only possible solution that I can think of would be to play one non-conference game there a year.
One game means that the fans who don’t get the chance to go to games in Fayetteville have one shot at seeing the Hogs play.
I know that the crowd and atmosphere depend on the opponent, and a non-conference one may hinder that, but this being the only game played there will help. Then the place may actually have a close to capacity crowd and the University won’t complain about revenue loss as much because it’s only one game.
A non-conference game means that the venue worthy enough of an SEC matchup stays in the state-of-the-art facility in Fayetteville and people who want games out of War Memorial, don’t complain about having to play conference games in a ‘dump’.
While there will always be discrepancy over where to play the games, and the conflicts will go on for many years to come, this is the only solution that I could think of that would keep everyone a little bit happy.
What do you guys think? Should Arkansas continue to play game in Little Rock or should they be done away with completely. Comment below to give your thoughts and opinions.
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