November 2016 opening set for Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 779 views 

The iconic Masonic Temple in downtown Fort Smith is set to open in November 2016, with the building being renovated as a “multipurpose event facility” to provide space for concerts, corporate and civic events, televised viewing of major sporting events, and other uses.

Lance Beaty, manager of Temple Holdings and president of Beaty Capitol Group, said in a statement released Wednesday (Oct. 21) that the historic building constructed in 1928 will offer “a one of a kind experience in which to dine, enjoy cocktails, see live performances, hold corporate and civic events, family reunions, charity events, and a myriad of other functions.” The statement included a “Temple Live” logo that indicates a new name for the enterprise.

Plans for the 1,200-seat theatre include a new modern climate control and audio/video system that will “meet or exceed the specifications of all major touring productions and acts.” Other renovations include:
• The building is being made handicapped accessible and the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will be modified and updated;

• The existing kitchen will be remodeled, and three service kitchens will be added to support three ball rooms;

• A new elevator will be installed in the lobby to service all four floors;

• Six dressing rooms will be added, and the back stage green rooms will be remodeled;

• Ball room audio visual systems will be updated with modern equipment; and

• The theatre will be updated cosmetically and the collection of hand painted theatrical backdrops will be professionally preserved and available for use by touring artists.

Temple Holdings is working with The Department of Interior National Parks Service and the Department of Arkansas Heritage to preserve “the original design, structure and highly detailed artistic nature of the building and theatre,” Beaty said.

Through Temple Holdings LLC, Beaty acquired the Masonic Temple on Nov. 6. in a $2.5 million deal that at the time was estimated to include property acquisition and redevelopment costs. No update was provided by Beaty on costs associated with the renovations announced Wednesday. Temple Holdings also did not provide detail on the estimated number of employees the facility would have when it opens.

The 3-story building located at 200 N. 11th St., was designed by architect George Mann of Little Rock in conjunction with architects J.J. Haralson and E.C. Nelson of Fort Smith. It has numerous meeting rooms and a theatre capable of seating 900. The facility was listed in early 2014 with a price of $750,000. Beaty did not disclose what he paid to acquire the building.

According to a statement from Temple Holdings, the corner stone was laid Dec. 7, 1928, the temple opened for Masons on Sept. 6, 1929, and was dedicated Sept. 16, 1929.

Francisco Bautista, now employed by RSVP Event Rentals, a company owned by Beaty, will transition to manage banquet operations. He was general manager at the Phoenix Expo before the building was converted and leased to Community Health Systems, a hospital holding company that owns Sparks Health System in Fort Smith.

With construction beginning and targeted for a mid-October completion, Bautista said event reservations are being accepted for functions after Nov. 1, 2016.

“As those who have had the opportunity to tour the building know, it is absolutely stunning and has multiple ballrooms and many spaces with soring ceilings and ornate décor’ uniquely designed for meetings, receptions, weddings, casual gatherings, reunions, along with musical and theatrical performances,” Bautista said in the Temple Holdings statement.

Ian Miller, former manager of Fianna Hills Country Club, will be the manager of RSVP Event Rentals.