Walton Arts Center committee recommends purchase of Arkansas Music Pavilion

The expansion site for the new Walton Arts Center hasn’t been determined yet, but it appears as though the center might be acquiring a new Fayetteville venue in the meantime.

The WAC facilities committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to recommend to its board of directors that the organization purchase the Arkansas Music Pavilion.

Walton Arts Center CFO Tim Vogt said that discussions with current AMP co-owner Brian Crowne about the possibility of acquiring the 3,500-seat venue have been ongoing.

According to Vogt, the acquisition would allow the WAC to expand entertainment offerings, test the market on a larger venue, and increase ticket revenues.

“We need to begin to develop an audience base that might not be buying tickets now, but could become Walton Arts Center ticket buyers as we begin to move into a new hall and try to fill it,” Vogt said.

“We raise 45% of our budget through gifts and grants. We know if we are going to grow, we’ve got to expand our programming and presence, and we need to increase our earned income potential.”

Vogt said that WAC staff feels one of the keys to success is to make sure Crowne is under contract to continue to book and manage the venue.

“For this to work, we’d need a 3-5 year agreement with Brian,” he said. “He has basically taken a tent in a parking lot and made it more than that.”

Other keys to the purchase would be to secure a long term lease with the ownership of the Northwest Arkansas Mall, to identify cost-saving opportunities to integrate AMP operations with Walton Arts Center operations (ticketing, marketing, and administrative), and to continue to make both short term and long term improvements to the venue.

Vogt said the physical assets that would come with the purchase would be the tent, the chairs, the stage, and infrustrictural items like lighting and cabling.

Terri Trotter, chief operating officer for the arts center, reminded the committee that they would also get the AMP brand with the purchase.

Walton Arts Center CEO Peter Lane did not disclose the sale price of the venue to the facilities committee, but he did tell the group that if the sale were to go through, he hoped to make about $1 million in improvements to the facility, including adding more permanent structures for restrooms, concessions and dressing rooms.

Board chairman Jerry Vest moved to recommend the purchase to the full board of directors pending a review of the economic viability of the purchase by the finance committee.

If all goes smoothly, the AMP could be under Walton Arts Center ownership before next season.

Update: The WAC board approved the purchase of the AMP on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The final decision is contingent upon some research and negotiations.