For the next three years, War Memorial Stadium will be the home of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Football Championships.
Representatives from the NJCAA, Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism gathered at the stadium on Friday, April 30 to announced a three-year agreement to host the championships in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
According to NCJCAA president and CEO Dr. Chris Parker, the championship will be slightly different in 2021, being held in June, rather than in the fall. This adjustment was made after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NCJAA to shift its football season to spring 2021.
The 2021 championship will be held June 5, 2021 at 4 pm and will be televised by CBS Sports Network.
However, the 2022 and 2023 NCJAA Football Championships are expected to be held in December of those respective years.
When selecting the venue for the NCJAA Football Championship, Parker said that the organization was looking for an “experience” for fans, student-athletes and the schools. He cited War Memorial’s “centralized location” as a key strength for its selection.
“The NJCAA cannot think of a better place than Little Rock to host the upcoming football championships for our dedicated fans and student-athletes,” Parker said in a statement. “War Memorial Stadium’s iconic facility and atmosphere align with our mission to provide opportunities and the best overall experience possible. We look forward to having our championship in a destination city like Little Rock.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined the state officials and economic development officials in thanking Parker for the three-year contract. “I know without any doubt that we love our football and we’re passionate about it. People from all over the state are used to coming here to see great games of competition at every level, and you’re going to find this a good fit for you. We’re delighted with the long-term contract,” he said.
War Memorial Stadium opened in 1948 and has grown to a capacity of 54,000 from an original seating capacity of 31,000. During its history, the stadium has hosted more than 200 Razorback football games, as well as soccer games, concerts and religious gatherings.
The stadium has weathered storms in recent years, according to Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst. During the press conferences, she said that there have been calls to defund the stadium or sell it. Instead of cutting funding, Hutchinson moved the stadium under the then-Department of Parks and Tourism, in what Hurst called a “Hail Mary pass.”
“War Memorial, the venerable historic stadium, was under fire from legislators. They were growing weary of funding the stadium’s operations and its capital improvements. There was serioustalk of eliminating the budget entirely and even a suggestion to sell the stadium,” she said. “Instead, Gov. Hutchinson proposed moving War Memorial Stadium under Arkansas State Parks, and he even provided discretionary funding to conduct a study on what could be done to stabilize…the stadium. Yes, it might have been a Hail Mary for sure, but this Hail Mary turned out to be a touchdown pass.”
For Hurst, the new football championship agreement represents a bright future for War Memorial Stadium. “We love the opportunity to welcome new audiences to War Memorial Stadium and to showcase our beautiful facility and our hospitality,” she said.