FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In recognition of the extraordinary longtime support of the Walker Family and the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, the nation’s top collegiate baseball ballpark has been renamed Baum-Walker Stadium at George Cole Field. On Thursday, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees approved a resolution renaming the stadium that has been home to Razorback Baseball since 1996. Arkansas will open its 2019 season at Baum-Walker Stadium on Friday, February 15 against Eastern Illinois at 3 p.m.
The Willard and Pat Walker Family have been instrumental in supporting Razorback Baseball for many years. The Walkers gave a signature gift to enable the University of Arkansas to build Baum Stadium in the early 1990s. Initial plans had called for a renovation of the existing George Cole Field, but thanks in large part to the Walkers’ gift, and a gift from their friends, the Charlie Baum family, a new state-of-the-art stadium was constructed. The Walkers have remained steadfast supporters of the Razorbacks, including Razorback Baseball. Most recently, the Walker Charitable Foundation pledged $5 million in support of a new Baseball Performance Center to be constructed in the right field corner of the stadium.
“For more than four decades the Walker Family has been integral in the transformation of Razorback Athletics and most importantly the enhancement of the lives of our student-athletes,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek said. “Nowhere has that been more evident than with their support of Razorback Baseball. Through their unwavering support of our program, the Walker Family has enabled our baseball program to emerge as one of nation’s best. The beautiful place we call home for baseball wouldn’t exist without the Walkers. I want to thank Johnny Mike (Walker) and Mandy Macke for their continued commitment to the Razorbacks. It is fitting that from this day forward, this iconic ballpark will celebrate not only the Walkers’ tremendous contributions to our program, but the friendship that linked these two special families.”
Willard Walker and Charlie Baum worked together for Walmart founder Sam Walton in the early days of the company. The families were friends and combined philanthropic efforts to support several projects in Northwest Arkansas including Baum Stadium and Baum Walker Hall, the main auditorium at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.
“Razorback Baseball has been a longstanding passion for our family,” Johnny Mike Walker said. “From my days as a Razorback player to our family relationships with legendary coaches Norm DeBriyn and Dave Van Horn, we have enjoyed the opportunity to be part of such a special program. To have our name associated with the Baums and the Razorback program in the formal name of the baseball stadium is something I know my parents would be very proud of. We are grateful to be honored in such a meaningful way.”
The Walker Charitable Foundation and the Walker Family have been long-time benefactors of the University of Arkansas and Razorback Athletics. They are the namesakes of the Walker Family Training Center, which includes the Willard and Pat Walker Pavilion and the Razorbacks’ spectacular 18,000 square-foot weight room facility. The Walker Foundation made a grant to help fund the Fred W. Smith Football Center. The Walkers also made a gift for the construction of Bud Walton Arena which includes the Willard and Pat Walker Entry.
In addition to their support of Razorback Athletics, the Walkers have made signature gifts to the College of Business’ Willard J. Walker Hall, the Pat Walker Student Health Center and the Fowler House. In 2009, the Walker Charitable Foundation made a significant donation for need based academic scholarships at the University of Arkansas.
“Since its inception, the Walker Charitable Foundation has awarded grants to numerous organizations that enhance the quality of life in our region, including Razorback Athletics,” Executive Director of the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation Mandy Macke said. “During that time, much like our region itself, Razorback Baseball has enjoyed tremendous growth and success. Razorback Baseball is something that is special to the Walker Family, the Walker Foundation and so many of us who have had the opportunity to be associated with it through the years. We are excited about the future of the Razorback program and the role it continues to play throughout Arkansas and beyond.”
“We are grateful to the Walkers for all they have done for the baseball program at the University of Arkansas,” Arkansas Head Baseball Coach Dave Van Horn said. “It is difficult to imagine our program without their commitment and support. Much of what we enjoy today is because of their generosity. With their latest grant, additional generations of Razorback Baseball student-athletes will be able to train and compete for championships in the best ballpark in the nation – Baum-Walker Stadium at George Cole Field.”
The Baseball Performance Center (BPC), an approximately 40,000+ square foot baseball clubhouse facility will provide student-athletes with an improved and expanded locker room, team room, weight room, training room, meeting rooms, nutrition space, player and pitching development spaces and in-venue batting cages. The BPC will be constructed in the right field corner of Baum Stadium, connecting it with the current west concourse and providing new premium viewing areas for games.
The total project cost of the Baseball Performance Center is currently estimated at $20-25 million. Fans interested in supporting the Baseball Performance Center are encouraged to contact the Razorback Foundation at (479) 443-9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.