Study approved for downtown Fort Smith multi-use stadium

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,173 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved a resolution at its regular meeting Tuesday (Aug. 15) to fund a study of the possible development of a baseball or multi-use stadium along the Arkansas River in downtown Fort Smith.

The city is working with Fort Smith businessman and property owner Bennie Westphal to evaluate development of Westphal’s property on Riverfront Drive into a baseball or multi-use stadium complex with related amenities, a memo from Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman said. (Westphal is an owner of Natural State Media, the parent company of Talk Business & Politics.)

“The scope of such project needs to be identified and planned, so that such development can coordinate with other important venues operating or developing along the Riverfront such as the Riverfront Park, the Greg Smith River Trail, the US Marshal Museum, the Community School for the Arts, the RV Park and the Fort Kids Children’s Museum. Such development is responsive to the goal of riverfront development outlined in the Future Fort Smith Comprehensive Plan, and also complements the Propelling Downtown Forward master plan for downtown,” the memo states.

The resolution authorizes the city to use up to $75,000 from the city’s general fund to help pay for a Riverfront Master Plan that will spell out opportunities and challenges for continued activation of Fort Smith’s Riverfront as a community attraction. Westphal also will pay up to $75,000 for the study, which is not to exceed $150,000.

The resolution authorizes a contract with Kansas-based Mammoth Sports Construction, LLC, which according to Dingman’s memo, has the expertise and experience in developing the type of master plan needed for the Fort Smith riverfront.

City Administrator Carl Geffken said he has worked with Matt Perry with Lawrence, Kan.-based National Sports Services for several years. National Sports Services will be a subcontractor who will work with Mammoth, Perry said. They will focus on community engagement and how the facility can best be used.

“This has been referred to as a baseball stadium. But it is really a multipurpose stadium. Yes, it will have a baseball tenant, but it also can be used for concerts, soccer, (other sports), tournaments, and many other things. The fact that we get to do this on the riverfront is really spectacular, really exciting for us,” Perry said.

He said they will help to find the way to maximize the use of the facility, how to get the project funded and the economic impact of the project.

“We are committed to bringing a baseball franchise that will be one of the tenants of the complex,” Perry said.

Gefken said the idea of the project is to start with a basic stadium that would be reasonably priced and could grow. The footprint of a basic stadium and parking for about 600 vehicles would be about 15 acres. There are 30 acres total at the river that the Westphal family owns, Gefken said.

The resolution is for the study of a multi-use stadium complex that would be presented to the community, not for an actual stadium or complex.