A&P Commission: WAC should focus AMP site search on Fayetteville

An artist’s rendering shows what the AMP would’ve looked like by now if Walton Arts Center officials had secured a long-term lease at the NWA Mall where the venue was set to undergo a $4 million renovation project.

Source: Walton Arts Center

Advertising and Promotion Commission members this week said they want to make sure the Walton Arts Center-owned Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) stays in Fayetteville.

The amphitheater will host at least another season of concerts at its temporary location at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Fayetteville, but officials are still looking for a permanent home for the venue.

Arts center officials had hoped to keep the AMP at its original home near the Northwest Arkansas Mall where it was set to undergo a $4 million renovation. A&P Commissioners were thrilled with the idea and unanimously approved a half-million-dollar pledge request for the project from Peter Lane, president and CEO of the arts center.

The city of Fayetteville has, for years, done whatever they could and almost whatever they were asked to accommodate the Walton Arts Center…I would certainly think that would be a heavyweight factor.

— Alderman/commissioner Bobby Ferrell

The mall’s new management, however, would not issue a long-term lease for the project which landed the AMP at the fairgrounds where it will stay at least through the 2013 season.

In a Oct. 5 letter to commissioners, Lane thanked the group for its $500,000 pledge, but acknowledged that it was clearly no longer applicable.

He said the search for a permanent AMP location was under way, but noted that Fayetteville wasn’t the only city being considered.

“We will also look at a few other Northwest Arkansas sites that are highly accessible and meet the needs of a major outdoor concert venue,” said Lane in the letter.

Lane made similar comments at the arts center’s most recent board meeting when updating members about the AMP. “We have been approached by some cities and mayors about an alternate location,” Lane said.

A&P Commissioners on Monday said they hope Lane keeps in mind the continued commitment Fayetteville has shown the arts center through the years.

“I think the Walton Arts Center has an obligation to the city of Fayetteville,” said Marilyn Heifner, the commission’s executive director. “The city of Fayetteville stepped up 20 years ago and the citizens voted for a sales tax just for the Walton Arts Center. I think they ought to look to some place inside the Fayetteville city limits to keep (the AMP) here, especially if they’re going to build a 2,200-seat theatre in Bentonville.”

Commissioner Bobby Ferrell, who is also a Ward 3 City Council member, agreed. “The city of Fayetteville has, for years, done whatever they could and almost whatever they were asked to accommodate the Walton Arts Center, including the AMP, so I would certainly think that would be a heavyweight factor.”

A&P chair Maudie Schmitt and commissioner Ching Mong said they’d welcome another request from Lane if a suitable location is found in Fayetteville.

“It would be a worthwhile investment on our part,” said Mong.

“For sure,” said Schmitt. “That’s a big part of what we do.”