WAC board approves $20 million expansion plan

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 100 views 

The Walton Arts Center Board of Directors on Tuesday endorsed a $20 million expansion of the Walton Arts Center that includes a planned 2015 opening of the renovated facility on Dickson Street and a planned 2018 opening of a new theatre in Bentonville.

According to a statement from the WAC board, the expansion will include approximately 30,000-square-feet of new space including an expanded lobby and plaza on Dickson Street, plus additional seating and a dedicated entrance for Starr Theater.

In continuing to appease the various desires of business and civic leaders in Benton and Washington counties, the statement continues to refer to the effort as a “multi-campus, regional expansion strategy.” That strategy continues to include a new 2,000-seat performance hall in Bentonville. No Bentonville location has yet been made public. The overall regional plan comes with a cost estimate of $200 million — $160 million for Bentonville, $20 million for the WAC in Fayetteville, and a $20 million endowment.

“The proposed concepts will create a vibrant streetscape on Dickson Street, additional backstage support and storage space, more dressing rooms, catering kitchen, expanded administrative offices and additions to Starr Theater to accommodate larger audiences in the black box theater,” noted the WAC statement.

WAC officials said the expanded Walton Arts Center will support the increase of “urban development” in Fayetteville — developments that include the recently completed $16 million renovation of The Chancellor Hotel, and approval of the Jim and Joyce Faulkner Performing Arts Center at an estimated cost of $17 million.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this vision for the expansion of Walton Arts Center,” Peter Lane, WAC president and CEO, said in the statement. “After 20 years of growth and success, this expansion will give us the space we need to grow our programs, better serve our patrons and partner organizations and bring more events to the Dickson Street area.”

Along with plans to expand the facilities, the WAC board passed a resolution encouraging the Fayetteville City Council to proceed with construction of a new parking deck, preferably on one of the lots adjacent to the Walton Arts Center campus.

The parking plan is proving to be a hotly contested issue in the Fayetteville mayoral race between Mayor Lioneld Jordan and former Mayor Dan Coody. Jordan has said his plan helps provide planning and money for future growth of Dickson Street and Fayetteville’s arts scene. Coody says the plan is cumbersome, costly and is discouraging people from attending events or visiting businesses along Dickson Street and other areas of downtown Fayetteville.

The Walton Arts Center is, according to its literature, “Arkansas' premier center for the performing arts and entertainment.” The center each year is visited by more than 140,000 people from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma and beyond who attend more than 350 events. The WAC also provides educational opportunities annually to about 40,000 students and teachers from 30 school districts.

Link here for more information about the expansion timeline.