$28 million entertainment venue to locate in North Little Rock

by Marine Glisovic ([email protected]) 3,186 views 

The city of North Little Rock announced Friday (April 22) its newest economic development project that will include an electronic driving range and other entertainment options.

The Maly Entertainment Center will be on the 30-acres formerly owned by Wild River Country on Crystal Hill Road and will be similar to T-Shotz, a family entertainment venue in Kansas City. The Maly Entertainment Center is expected to bring 200 jobs. The projected timeline for construction completion is December 2023.

North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick made the announcement along with the President of the Maly Group, Dr. James Thomas, a cardiologist in Conway.

“When I met with Dr. Thomas and his people from the Maly team, they were organized, they were ready to move,” said Hartwick.

Thomas, who has been in the real estate market for the last 15 years, is also responsible for a commercial development in Conway which includes a 55-acre event center and Fast Lane, a bowling alley in Benton County. He also owns Maly Construction, which will build the new project in North Little Rock.

“We have created our own construction company that does all of the work, and we also have an architect in-house,” Thomas said. “We always wanted to do something in central Arkansas, closer to Little Rock. We have been interested in golf entertainment for a few years.”

Thomas said he looked at various areas or locations to build the Maly Entertainment Center, including in west Little Rock, but ultimately chose the former Wild River Country location.

“About eight months ago, we learned of the opportunity to be in the Wild River Country location. I don’t think that we looked at any other place after that,” said Thomas. “It was centrally located, also it has a reputation for being a family entertainment area.”

The $28 million project will include T-Time, the electronic driving range, HyperLanes, a 24-lane bowling alley, virtual laser tag, an arcade, bumper cars, a restaurant and two bars. While not set in stone, Thomas said they may name the restaurant Wild River Country.

While the project is still in its planning stages, Ronnie Robertson, the construction company’s manager, said the golf center will be built on seven to 10 acres with 60 bays – 30 on ground level and an additional 30 bays on an upper level. The entire project will be close in size of the Conway entertainment center which is about 55,000 square feet.

The Maly Group also has plans to further develop the rest of the 67 acres and those plans include building an apartment complex, restaurants, shops and hotels. Thomas projects a $10 million gain in tax revenue for the city of North Little Rock.

“It’s been probably two to three years since we’ve actually been able to have an announcement even though we have had some great economic development successes in the last couple of years. We have added over 2,000 jobs, $300 million worth of investment in the community, so we’re excited to be able to be in front of you today,” said North Little Rock Director of Development Robert Birch.

“When I met with these individuals, I told them this is going to be a home-run – I felt it,” Hartwick added. “This is something for not only North Little Rock, but for Maumelle…Conway…when we bring people here now, they’re going to have something else to attract and, yes, go spend their money so I’m very happy about that.”

In 2019, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., confirmed he had discussions with Top Golf, the Houston-based golf entertainment center, but those plans never came to fruition.

When Hartwick was asked what sets North Little Rock apart from Little Rock, he said, “Besides the mayor? Our city…from the police department to the people who live here, our chamber is close, our CVB [Convention and Visitors Bureau] is close…we’re a family. I know I’m the mayor, but you know what most people call me? Terry.”

Editor’s note: Marine Glisovic is a senior political reporter for content partner, KATV News.