Osage Creek Performing Arts Center on track for 2011 opening

Back in June, we wrote about Greg Smith of Fort Smith, and his plan to build a large amphitheater in Northwest Arkansas for concerts and events on some land in rural Benton County.

Six months later, the Osage Creek Performing Arts Center is much closer to becoming a reality.

The new amphitheater and festival facility will be located on an 856-acre patch of land along Logan Cave Road between Tontitown and Siloam Springs. The site is 22.5 miles from Dickson St., and just 12 miles from XNA Regional Airport.

A rendering of the site has been completed by Tom Johnson of Johnson/Troillett Architecture of Eureka Springs, including a 16,000-seat natural amphitheater, full camping facilities, VIP areas, and a 90-by-100-foot stage.

The facility will be “completely green,” says Bert Piraino, who will serve as VP of Operations for the venue. “Geothermal energy, solar, wind, water reclamation, and a new concept using perpetual motors are all things that are incorporated into the plans,” he told us this week.

Piraino, as well as locals Jason Bigbee and Chance Chapman were enlisted by Smith to begin promoting, planning, and booking concerts for the new venue.

Piraino has fifteen years experience in the music industry, though he became involved with music in an unlikely way. “I was at a Grateful Dead show, and I got hit by a golf cart driven by (legendary music promoter) Bill Graham. On the way to the medical tent, I talked him into giving me a job,” Piraino said. He then went on to work for Bill Graham Presents (now Live Nation) and Grateful Dead Productions promoting shows for The Grateful Dead, Phish, Dave Matthews Band and others.

Bigbee is owner of Ozark Glassworks here in Fayetteville, as well as local music production company OG Entertainment. He became involved in the electronic music scene in Fort Collins, Colo. and says he decided to move to Fayetteville “to bring more music to town.” Bigbee will be doing a lot of the booking for Osage Creek.

“You have bands going from Dallas to Kansas City and from Tulsa to St. Louis,” Bigbee said. “From a booking standpoint, we’re right in between those places and we think we can be a stop for those bands now.”

The group says they believe the venue will have an economic benefit on the surrounding area. In addition to building the amphitheater, they say that plans are in the works to have booths for local artists, artisans, crafters, jewelers and more.

“We want to create something that benefits the area as a whole. We think we can create enough tax dollars and new business development to really make a difference here,” Piraino said.

“I think about people like Bruce Walker, and his guitar straps. We have painters and potters and people who make jewelry. We want to make that a central part of our vendor area. We feel like it’s more than building an amphitheater. We feel it’s the beginning of creating a whole new, creative industry here,” said Piraino.

Osage Creek is hoping to bring around 20-25 large concerts a year to the area, as well as a large music festival once or twice a year. Bigbee was mum on specific artists that he is negotiating with, but promised that big things are in the works.

“We’ve got some stuff right now that we are working on that people are not going to believe. There are quite a few bands who are chomping at the bit to get over here. In fact they’re calling us,” Bigbee said.

Construction will begin later this winter with a tentative completion date set for Fall 2010. The first season of music is scheduled for Spring 2011.

Piraino said that he hopes to begin announcing artists within the next 60 days.

Artist rendering of the Osage Creek Performing Arts Center.