The University Arkansas at Little Rock plans to build a new baseball field and expand its sports complex — thanks to a donation from a local family, the university announced today.
Members of the Coleman family, longtime owners and operators of the former Coleman Dairy, agreed to donate nearly eight acres of land in the area of the University Village Apartments and the Coleman Sports & Recreation Complex. A 10-acre property donation by the Coleman family in 2010, combined with land the university already owned, cleared the way for UALR to build its current sports complex.
This latest donation could be a game-changer, said Little Rock Trojans Athletic Director Chasse Conque. “Facilities are extremely important for recruiting talented student-athletes and building championship caliber programs,” he said.
Conque noted how advanced Sun Belt Conference facilities are and the competitiveness of Division 1 athletics. Investing in facility improvements is necessary to move the Little Rock program forward, he said.
While it will take “several years” to implement the plan because it is dependent on private donations, the new sports facility will be a “great asset for all of our students and for the Department of Athletics,” said UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson.
The next step is the construction of a field house at the current Little Rock sports complex location, expanding the facility so that it eventually could host all Trojans teams except basketball, volleyball, and swimming, Conque said. The field house would provide locker space, offices, training facilities, and meeting areas at a convenient location on campus.
Plans for the baseball park include seating for about 1,500 — about 30 percent more than Gary Hogan Field, an off-campus location that has hosted the Trojans since the 1970s.
Conque said it’s too early at this point to speculate on a time frame or a cost, but the land donation was needed to even consider the project at the planned location.
“Without this gift, we couldn’t take this conversation any further,” he said.
Advantages of all sports teams competing on campus include easy access for student housing residents and the availability of university parking for fans. A campus location also puts Little Rock teams on the university communications and power grids.
“We’re really pleased now that this latest gift gives us the ability to build a baseball field and stadium there in proximity to other sports,” Anderson said, “which makes it more convenient for coaches and student-athletes and also reduces maintenance costs.”
Brothers Walt, Bob, Charlie, and Cherb Coleman made the land donation.
“For many years, the Colemans were next-door neighbors to the university,” Anderson said. “Their generous gifts of property have made it possible for the university to provide excellent athletic facilities for the student-athletes of UALR.”
The latest gift is a continuation of the family’s long-standing support of athletics in Arkansas, said Bob Denman, UALR vice chancellor for advancement, who played baseball with the Colemans while growing up and worked with them on the property donations.
“They were very good community advocates, that’s for sure,” Denman said of the Coleman brothers and their parents. “They’ve always had a strong interest in sports in central Arkansas.”
Walt Coleman said plans for the most recent land donation moved quickly once the brothers had a conversation with Chris Curry, the Trojans’ baseball coach, at a Little Rock basketball game.
Curry mentioned university leaders were discussing possibly squeezing a baseball field onto the current sports complex property.
The Colemans, who still owned land in that area, had been close to selling the land to a different entity but were more than willing to donate additional property to help UALR.
“I guess it was lucky that we all ended up at the basketball game and got to talking,” Coleman said. “The timing couldn’t have worked out any better.”