A&P Commission delays action on UA’s $1 million request

Renderings, from Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, show the interior of a planned 700-seat performing arts hall to be built inside the old Field House building on the University of Arkansas campus.

Staff photo, courtesy images

Discussion of a $1 million request from University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart to put toward construction costs of a 700-seat performing arts hall was delayed until August by the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission on Monday.

The decision to table the issue came after a presentation by Gearhart who detailed the university’s plans to convert its old Field House building into a state-of-the-art venue for musical and theatrical performances.

“We think this will have a dramatic impact on the city, the community and certainly the university,” said Gearhart.

The old Field House building.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

The estimated $17 million project, he said, would allow the university to host approximately 40 large ensemble performances each year that could result in a major boost in visitors to the city.

The UA’s Center for Business and Economic Research estimates an annual attendance of 28,000 people during those 40 events which would account for an increase of at least $298,000 and up to $1.9 million in visitor spending each year.

“We do believe it will bring more people into Fayetteville and more money into Fayetteville,” Gearhart said. “We think there’s no question about that.”

Plus, Gearhart said, the venue would be made available to Fayetteville as an additional facility for hosting events not directly affiliated with the university, when scheduling allows.

Gearhart and Mark Power, the university’s executive director of development, said they hope to announce an estimated $10 million lead gift toward the project sometime this fall, but would still need a substantial amount of fundraising to fill the gap, even with the A&P Commission’s commitment.

“We’re full steam ahead and feel very good about where we are at this point,” said Power. “But there’s a lot of other possibilities out there.”

If approved, commission funding would come from a reserve of about $2.3 million and would be dispersed over a three-year period.

Commissioner Bob Davis said he supported the proposal, but with commission members Justin Tennant and William Lyle absent from Monday’s meeting, the group decided to delay further discussion until its next regular meeting in August.

A&P Funds

Legislation created the Advertising and Promotion Commission in 1977 with the passage of the Hotel, Motel, Restaurant (HMR) tax in Fayetteville. The 2 percent tax is split equally between the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and the A&P Commission. The parks money is used for parks maintenance, operations and for capital improvements. The self-reported numbers do not include retail or liquor sales.

» See recent collection totals

By state legislation, all HMR funds shall be used:
1. for advertising and promoting the city and its environs
2. for the construction, reconstruction, equipment, improvement, maintenance, repair, and operation of a convention center
3. for the operation of tourist promotion facilities in the city
4. for personnel and agencies necessary to conduct the business of the A & P commission

HMR funds can also be used for:
1. for funding the arts
2. for operation of tourist-oriented facilities
3. for construction, reconstruction, repair, maintenance, improvement, equipping and operation of public recreation facilities and for the payment of bonds.

Taxes shall not be used for:
1. general capital improvements within the city
2. costs associated with general operation of the city
3. general subsidy of any civic group or chamber of commerce

Source: Arkansas Code / § 26-75-606 – Use of funds collected