There are few people more familiar with the plans for the Razorback baseball team’s new development center than head coach Dave Van Horn. In addition to pouring over those plans before construction began Van Horn was also one of the first to see an animated video of the project which has been available for view on the athletic department’s website for several months. But as Van Horn continued to eye construction progress over the summer from his office overlooking Baum-Walker stadium he began to realize that he and his players are getting a facility that will be much more imposing than they realized.
“I didn’t know it was going to end up looking that large,” Van Horn told the Pig Trail Nation a few days after the final steel beam was put in place. “It’s a very big structure. It’s gonna be very functional. Everything we’re putting in there has been really well thought out and planned.”
According to the man who is supervising construction of the J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Development Center, the team is also getting a facility that is being built with loving care by workers who, for the most part, are Razorback baseball fans themselves.
Richard Stewart, Superintendent at Kinco Constructors, said he is thrilled to oversee a project that means so much to him personally and added, “A lot of the subcontractors and the people involved, take a lot of pride in this building. When they’re out there during the season, they can look over there and say, ‘Hey, I had a big part on that project right there.’ “
The term “development center” isn’t just a fancy name for a building that contains an expanded new locker-room, team lounge and meeting room. Van Horn says development of Arkansas’ players will go to another level with many of the other features contained within the structure going up behind the right field fence of the stadium.
“You’d have to talk to (pitching coach) Matt (Hobbs) to know completely all the things we’ll able to do in the pitching lab,” Van Horn gushed. “There are multiple cameras we’ll be using to detect certain things with their throwing motions. We have a player right now who had some issues. We were able to show him how, if he didn’t make a change, he might be headed for surgery. We got the change made and he’s never had to sit out since.”
“This facility is about technology,” Van Horn continued. “We feel like we can develop our guys much faster through technology.”
The development center will also have some public areas accessible at the end of the first base concourse or through a new gate on the southwest side of the stadium. That part of the project will be completed first.
“The loge boxes, (outdoor seating) the concourse area and the champions lobby will all be ready to go by the middle of February when the season starts,” Steward revealed.
The Norm DeBriyn Champions Lobby will feature numerous historical displays and interactive content showcasing the history of Razorback Baseball.
Stewart said the construction crew has remained COVID free so far and the project is on, or maybe a little ahead of, schedule. It’s possible that the team might be able to move into its new home near the end of next season. However the players will continue to use their current locker-room on game days throughout the 2021 season. That locker-room accesses the 3rd base dugout via a tunnel that was part of the original construction of Baum Stadium in 1996.
A new tunnel, which runs under the first base concourse, is under construction. When finished it will allow players to travel directly from their new locker-rooms in the development center to the first base dugout. The team will switch from the third to the first base dugout for the 2022 season.