Year of Change Aligns Jones Center for Future

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Visitors to The Jones Center in Springdale who haven’t been there in a while will see “a whole different center — and that’s a good thing,” its president and CEO Ed Clifford said Wednesday.

At a luncheon for members of the media, Clifford and other leaders of the center and its parent organization, The Jones Trust, outlined the many changes they’ve made in the past year to keep the center open for years to come. The changes include a new management team and a new computer system that can provide data on visitors — important information for those who help fund the center.

“There’s a whole new attitude in the building,” said Clifford, who started work for The Jones Center last fall after heading the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce for 11 years.

Founded in 1995 with an endowment by Bernice Jones after the death of her husband, Jones Truck Lines founder Harvey Jones, The Jones Center offers recreational and educational activities for youth and adults as well as meeting and conference space in its 220,000-SF facility.

Susan Barrett, interim chairman of The Jones Trust’s board of directors, said 2012 was a year of “intensive activity,” in which strategic partnerships were formed with organizations like the Northwest Arkansas Community College, the American Red Cross and Camp War Eagle for classes and other programming. These partnerships are bringing in revenue and generating new interest in the center, Barrett said.

“When Ed and I started [working with the center] two years ago, our funding plan was not sustainable,” Barrett said. “Anyone looking at it now would say it’s very sustainable.”

Last year, the center began charging membership fees for gym and pool use. Scholarships are available, though, for those who can’t afford the fees.

The center has an operating budget of $3.2 million, and serves 1 million visitors each year.

On Dec. 14, The Jones Trust began a $30 million endowment campaign with gifts of $10 million each from the Walton Family Foundation and Care Foundation. The Walton donation requires a match of $10 million from other supporters.

The Jones Trust, created in 1994, oversees the center as well as the Center for Nonprofits in Rogers, the Center for Nonprofits at The JTL Shops in Springdale and the Harvey Jones Education Building, also in Springdale.