FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- The Diamond Hogs will open their 2019 season at the newly-named Baum-Walker Stadium after University of Arkansas officials voted to change the venue's name.
The UA Board of Trustees on Thursday (Jan. 31) approved changing the name of Baum Stadium to Baum-Walker Stadium to reflect the Willard and Pat Walker family's longtime support of the Razorbacks baseball program.
The Walkers gave a signature gift to enable the University of Arkansas to build Baum Stadium in the early 1990s, according to Kevin Tranior, spokesman for UA.
Initial plans had called for a renovation of the existing George Cole Field -- Arkansas' baseball home from 1975 to 1995 -- 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, Trainor said.
“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."
The Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation recently donated $5 million toward a new baseball facility which would house the Arkansas clubhouse, weight room and house other features, Trainor said.
University of Arkansas senior Zack Sokora has followed the baseball program all his life.
“Since I’ve been born Baum stadium is all you know so it’s kind of different to hear a change.. I don’t know how much it’s going to stick in my voice or if I’m still going to call it Baum or not,” said Sokora.
Former UofA Sports Information Director Rick Schaeffer says he remembers when the stadium first got its names sake and that the Walker family has been involved with the program ever since.
“I guess with this new performance center they’ve pledged 5 million dollars towards that so it’s probably really appropriate that the Walker Family name is on the Ballpark,” said Schaeffer
Sokora says on campus many things carry the Walker name, so it was surprising to him to see it again. As a dedicated fan, he says he's thankful for the families generosity towards the team he's loved since he was a kid.
“There’s definitely several things that the Walkers have their names on right now so I thought it was kind of shocking that we added on again, but like I said if they gave a generous donation I’m appreciative... I’m going to come here and enjoy whatever help they’ve added to the stadium,” Sokora.
Both Schaffer and Sokora say the name may have changed but the facility will still be the number one place to play collegiate baseball.
There are several venues on the Arkansas campus named after the Walkers, including the football indoor practice facility.
Opened in 1996, Baum Stadium seats roughly 13,400 and has consistently been ranked among the nation's premier collegiate baseball stadiums.
Arkansas hosts Eastern Illinois on Feb. 15 to open the 2019 season.