Council denies resolution to renegotiate Walton Arts Center lease

A resolution intended to guarantee programming at the Fayetteville Walton Arts Center facility was voted down by the City Council Tuesday night.

Only Ward 1 representatives Brenda Thiel and Adella Gray voted for the proposal that would have authorized City Attorney Kit Williams to renegotiate the Walton Arts Center’s lease in an effort to make sure the Dickson Street facility won’t suffer when the arts center builds a new 2,200-seat facility in Bentonville.

Walton Arts Center COO Terri Trotter spoke against the proposed ordinance.

“Our current lease, which is held through the City of Fayetteville and the UA is valid through 2017, and we really don’t see the need to look at that right now,” Trotter said.

Thiel, who co-sponsored the ordinance with alderwoman Gray, asked Trotter specifically why the center did not support a renegotiated lease.

“I’m not sure a building lease is a forum to talk about content,” Trotter responded. “We have committed to maintaining quality arts and entertainment in Fayettevillle. If we don’t do that, we have a huge challenge in being able to run our business.”

Ward 4 alderwoman Sarah Lewis agreed. “I think the best way to guarantee [programming] rather than with a contract or a lease agreement, is to support the arts,” she said. “The more we’re going, the better our shows will be.”

Other council members echoed Lewis’ sentiment, but Thiel moved to put the resolution to a vote anyway.

“Obviously, this is not going to pass,” Thiel said. “The city of Fayetteville has lost a major battle, and I want to make sure that, on record, I supported the citizens of Fayetteville and the businesses on this.”

The resolution failed by a vote of 6-2.