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Secret baseball fans

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You've probably seen pictures of fans of bad professional football teams wearing bags over their heads at games. Well-to-do fans of the University of Arkansas baseball team may be taking similar action when the baseball Razorbacks resume play next spring, but for a different reason. A newspaper that sought the names of the suite holders at Baum Stadium has been told by the university that those names will not be revealed.

The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal of Springdale asked for the names under the state Freedom of Information Act. T. Scott Varady, associate general counsel of the university, replied that the names were exempt from disclosure under the “competitive advantage” provision of the FOIA. Varady said that even a public institution such as the UA is not required to disclose information that would give an advantage to a competitor. He said that UA baseball now has a competitor, the new professional baseball team at Springdale that will begin play in the spring. A stadium for the new team is under construction at Springdale; suites are planned. Varady said the university would release the names of suite holders at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, where the football team plays, and Bud Walton Arena, where the basketball team plays.

Asked if the Business Journal would pursue the matter in court, Business Journal publisher Jeffrey Wood issued a statement: “Two objective legal experts have given the Business Journal their opinions that the exemption cited by the University of Arkansas is probably not valid. … The real question the UA has created for the public and media, however, is where does this end? The UA competes with other schools to woo professors, administrators and coaches. So should their state-supported salaries be excluded from FOIA?”

Stepping up to the bridge

The long-awaited project to refurbish the Rock Island Bridge as a pedestrian bridge to North Little Rock could be getting some traction. The Clinton Foundation, which had promised to start work on the bridge in 2005, will bring in a steel company next week to look at the structure; an announcement is expected in mid-October. The cost of the redo is now put at $10 million, double the initial estimate for the project and the main weight on its progress.

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