Walton family to invest $225 million for fitness, childcare centers on Walmart HQ campus

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 11,352 views 

Artist rendering of the Walton Family Whole Health & Fitness Center on the Walmart corporate campus. The 360,000-square-foot space is slated to open by late 2023.

Two buildings to open by the end of 2023 on Walmart’s new corporate campus in Bentonville are a 360,000-square-foot fitness center and a 73,000-square-foot childcare center. The Walton family is providing $225 million for the facilities.

Company officials and Walton family members announced the details Wednesday (April 6) at an event at Walmart’s home office. The company declined to provide a cost estimate on each building.

The new Walton Whole Health & Fitness Center will focus on expanded health programming to include healthy eating and cooking and relaxation massages. Other amenities include indoor pickleball courts, outdoor tennis, three swimming pools, a cafe and spaces for basketball, volleyball, cricket, yoga, weight training and fitness. (Link here for a Walmart campus tour.)

Walton family fitness dates back to 1983 when the company opened a facility at 1701 S.E. 14th Street in Bentonville. Alice Walton, daughter of founders Sam and Helen Walton, said health and fitness was important to her dad who got much of his exercise chopping wood for the family fireplace. She said there were not many options for fitness in the 1980s in Bentonville. Sam Walton was also known to play pickup basketball on local outdoor courts at area schools. Alice Walton, along with her nephews Tom and Steuart Walton, all spoke at Wednesday’s event.

The fitness facility has been expanded over the years but Alice Walton said after nearly 40 years, Walmart employees need and deserve affordable access to health and wellness that goes beyond physical fitness to include mental health. She also spoke about the Whole Health Institute she is spearheading on the grounds of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Walton said healthcare has evolved in the past 30 years but her institute seeks to change the way healthcare is viewed. She said emotional health has to be on par with physical health and the entire payment system for healthcare needs to change to an outcome-based model.

Alice Walton (right) speaks with Donna Morris, chief people officer at Walmart, following the corporate campus update event held at the retail giant’s home office on Wednesday (April 6).

“Northwest Arkansas is the perfect place to see if we can transform healthcare. We are working with large employers in the region, insurers and healthcare providers on this endeavor,” Alice Walton said. “Providing associates with easy access to offerings that enhance health and well-being is an essential element of whole health and our family is delighted to provide the support for these innovative resources.”

Cindi Marsiglio, senior vice president of corporate real estate at Walmart, said the new fitness center will also offer programming for families such as archery classes and dive-in movie night at the center’s three swimming pools. She told Talk Business & Politics any Walmart employee can join the fitness center and have access to programming. That cost is now $9 per pay period. She said the new fee schedules are yet to be determined but said they will be affordable because access for all is at the heart of Walmart’s mission. Marsiglio also said the Walton family’s support and input are also a plus given the ongoing work in the whole health curriculum and practices.

She said the 73,000 square-foot childcare center will have room for 500 children from 6 months to pre-K. Like the Sam’s Club corporate childcare services which launched in 2020, Walmart will outsource the work to a third-party provider. Marsiglio said onsite childcare is the most requested benefit by Walmart employees. She said the Walmart childcare center will also offer summer camps and other programming. Marsiglio said employees on Walmart’s corporate campus will have first dibs on daycare slots. If there is excess room, the services will be offered to employees in other area locations.

Donna Morris, chief people officer at Walmart, said Walmart’s corporate employees have about 300 babies a year. Marsiglio said the region lacks affordable childcare and it’s also the reason many women stay out of the workplace, which contributes to labor supply issues.

The Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center in Bentonville has been a de facto daycare for many Walmart employees over the years. Marsiglio said with Walmart and Sam’s Club offering on-site daycare, that should free up space at the center for other kids in the area. She said it’s too early to know what the cost will be for on-site daycare, but reiterated it will be affordable for those working on campus.

CURRENT CAMPUS CLARITY
With continued work on the new corporate campus, there have been questions about the fate of the 8th and Walton location. Tom and Steuart Walton said their real estate development firm Blue Crane has agreed to acquire the existing home office location at 8th Street and Walton Boulevard for an undisclosed sum. Blue Crane is the real estate acquisition and development arm of Runway Group, a diversified holding company based in Bentonville and led by the Walton brothers.

Plans are yet to be determined, but the brothers spoke about the need for more housing density near downtown that allows for a more connected community where residents can bike or walk to work.

Steuart Walton, also a Walmart director, said the new home office site will set up the company for the next 50 years. He said the family’s mission is to make Bentonville the best place to live in the country.

“We have to build and catch up and run ahead,” he said.