Rebranding and repurposing of the Sound Room in downtown Fort Smith, a property once owned by the late Bill Neumeier, is underway. Investors in the project, which will become the Majestic, announced Tuesday (May 14) plans to renovate the property at 817 Garrison Ave.
Developers and investors in the project include Propak founder and CEO Steve Clark, Brian Crowne, vice president of the Walmart AMP in Rogers and owner of George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville; Trent Goins, president and CEO of OK Foods, and Sarah Sparks-Diebold, owner of Fayetteville-based SSD Holdings.
“Currently housing the Sound Room, the property at 817 Garrison Avenue will experience a make-over prior to hosting its debut event to be announced in the coming weeks,” noted a statement sent by Diebold. “The revitalization of the venue continues a resurgence of restorative developments in downtown Fort Smith, spotlighting the area as a feature location for arts, culture and tourism for the region.”
Diebold told Talk Business & Politics that the “bones of the facility will stay the same,” but there will be “pretty significant” changes on the inside, including a complete renovation of the stage. She said the new owners hope to debut the new look in about two months. She declined to provide an estimate on the cost of renovations.
Clark is also founder of The Unexpected Project, which has brought murals and other art outlets to downtown Fort Smith. Goins is one of the founders of the Peacemaker Festival, now in its fifth year of hosting two-days of Americana music at the Fort Smith Riverfront Amphitheater.
Crowne is a Fort Smith native and well known in Northwest Arkansas’ music scene. He and his wife, Day, bought George’s Majestic Lounge on Dickson Street in Fayetteville in 2004. He bought the Arkansas Music Pavilion in 2008 and booked the first concert at a temporary site on the parking lot of the Northwest Arkansas Mall. Crowne sold the AMP to the Walton Arts Center in 2011.
Diebold is an adjunct instructor at the University of Arkansas, Walton College of Business, member of the Board of Directors of the Walton Arts Center Foundation, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Ambassador Family and regularly consults with entrepreneurs around the southern part of the United States.
The Majestic, set to open in late summer, will be a venue for live music and corporate, private and charitable event space, according to Diebold. A debut event will be announced “in the coming weeks,” the press release noted.
The property was once owned by Neumeier, a longtime downtown Fort Smith restaurant owner and promoter who helped launch the Peacemaker Arts and Music Festival and other music events. He committed suicide Nov. 19. Neumeier owned Papa’s Pub and Pizzeria and Neumeier’s Rib Room, two popular, if not iconic, venues in downtown Fort Smith. He was active in bringing music to Garrison Avenue. That work included supporting the Fort Smith Riverfront Blues Festival, and partnering with Goins and Jeff Gosey, owner of two downtown restaurants, to launch the Peacemaker Festival.
A legal challenge began earlier this year between Joseph Neumeier, the brother of Bill Neumeier, and Goins over the control of downtown Fort Smith restaurants and other property owned by Neumeier’s trust. Sebastian County Circuit Court Judge Steve Tabor issued a ruling March 20 that allows Goins to serve as trustee until “the Court makes a final determination” who is the trustee and beneficiary of Neumeier’s trust. The order bars Goins from receiving any payment as trustee, and requires Goins to provide a report to Joseph Neumeier every two weeks “detailing the Trust’s expenditures, income, and employee hires and terminations.”
On May 8, Tabor followed with a ruling to allow the sale of the Sound Room by KFISH LLC. Proceeds from the sale were enough to settle a $294,000 loan with First National Bank of Fort Smith, and proceeds in excess were placed in an account managed by Goins and the Neumeier family. Tabor also included a gag order in the May 8 ruling that prevents parties from talking about other Neumeier property settlement details or possibilities.