Walton Arts Center board votes to purchase Arkansas Music Pavilion

The Walton Arts Center board of directors on Tuesday voted unanimously to continue to pursue a purchase of the Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP), despite the fact that a long-term lease agreement with the Northwest Arkansas Mall has not been reached.

The long-term lease, along with a management agreement with current AMP owner Brian Crowne and the formation of a new entity to purchase and operate the venue, were previously specified by the WAC board as requirements for completion of the purchase.

Two of those three criteria have been met (an agreement with Crowne, and the formation of a new company, NWA Entertainment, LLC), but the lease agreement with the mall has been delayed.

WAC President Peter Lane said that year-to-year leasing decisions can be made by the local mall management, but that a long-term lease must go through ownership, and through retail management companies in other parts of the country. Lane said he did not feel that the holdup was a result of reluctance on the part of the NWA Mall.

“It’s not an issue of desire and intent,” Lane told the board. “It’s just the approval process that is taking much, much longer than we anticipated.”

CFO Tim Vogt recommended proceeding with the purchase to make sure the 2011 season would not be affected.

“The challenge that we have now is it’s time to move forward with the 2011 season,” Vogt said. “Brian is booking acts out there, making contracts, and trying to attract some sponsors. If the ownership is in question, it causes some problems with those contracts.”

Board member Greg Lee agreed, and pointed out that if the purchase goes through, and a longterm agreement cannot be reached, the Walton Arts Center could look at relocating the AMP.

“Worst case scenario, if for some reason we could not [secure the lease],” said Lee, “we’d own the business, and nothing would preclude us from relocating the business if that proved to be necessary.”

The board voted to go ahead and secure the purchase, provided that $1 million in planned improvements to the facility would not take place until the lease with the mall is sorted out.

Walton Arts Center officials said that they hope to have the purchase completed and announced in the next week.