NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Southland Park Gaming and Racing presented a $300,000 donation Thursday to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame to help build a new conference room.
The contribution capped a four-year campaign to raise $2.2 million to build the 12,200-square-foot conference center adjacent to the Hall of Fame inside Verizon Arena. The facility will be able to seat 500 people for dinner and up to 750 for receptions.
Ray Tucker, executive director of the Hall of Fame, said after the presentation that he will meet Tuesday with the Pulaski County Quorum Court to discuss the construction schedule.
He said he hopes too take bids soon and that construction could begin within 30 days.
"Our time frame is six to eight months," Tucker said.
Originally, the plan was to use the space as a practice facility for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock basketball program, which had planned to play home games at the arena.
When the Jackson T. Stephens Center was built on the UALR campus, the idea of using he unfinished space as a conference center was developed, board members attending the meeting said Thursday.
"This thing has been the long and winding road with lots of people helping," said Andrew Meadors, president of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors.
The main facility will be named the Floyd and Jimmy Lou Sagely Conference Center. From Fort Smith, the Sagelys have been active in the Hall of Fame for years. Floyd Sagely, a businessman and former University of Arkansas basketball and football star who also played in the NFL, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
The inside of the center will be named the Jeremy M. Jacobs Great Hall, in honor of the chairman and CEO of Southland’s parent company, Delaware North Companies.
Jacob is also owner of the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and has been chairman of the NHL’s board of governors since 2007.
"This is a red letter day for us," Tucker said at a news conference.
Troy Keeping, Southland’s president and general manager, presented to check to Tucker, Meador and other Hall of Fame officials, saying Southland Park has been in Arkansas since 1956 and that Jacobs worked as a concessionaire at the facility for a time before later buying it.
"I’m proud, honored and it’s Jeremy’s donation," Keeping said.
Tucker said most of the donations to the Hall of Fame came from private donors, but the facility did receive a $1 million federal grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2010.
The North Little Rock City Council appropriated $100,000 for the project earlier this year.