Walton Arts Center seeks $8.5 million in A&P funds for expansion project

An artist rendering shows what the Walton Arts Center could look like after an expansion of its Dickson Street campus and completion of a planned downtown parking deck.

Courtesy: Walton Arts Center

The Walton Arts Center has asked the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission to foot nearly half the bill for a planned facelift and expansion of its Dickson Street campus.

Officials last week submitted a formal request for $8.5 million in A&P funds to put toward the estimated $20 million cost of the project.

Included in the plans are a new facade and entryway at the corner of West Avenue, a larger lobby, an expanded Starr Theatre, additional backstage space, and a re-configured Rosen Memorial Rose Garden.

The request comes just 12 days after a controversial decision to contribute $500,000 in A&P reserves to the University of Arkansas for an on-campus performing arts hall. The university originally requested $1 million for the project, but commissioners decided instead to award only half the amount requested.

Still, the ask comes as no surprise. Walton Arts Center CEO Peter Lane told board members earlier this month he planned to begin fundraising for the project with a “significant request” for A&P funds.

“We believe that going to the A&P is the right move, because it fits squarely within their domain,” said Lane. “It will drive economic activity and impact, and it will certainly bring more people downtown.”

New Dickson Street entrance, plaza and expanded streetscape

Courtesy: Walton Arts Center

Plus, he said a financial commitment from the commission could help get other donors on board.

Funding possibilities

Specifically, the arts center is asking for two separate $1 million donations – one in 2013 and one in 2014. The commission keeps an estimated $2 million in annual reserves, but has already allocated $500,000 in 2013 reserves to the university’s concert hall project.

To cover the remaining $6.5 million, Walton Arts Center officials have suggested the commission extend bonds used to the build the Fayetteville Town Center.

It wouldn’t be the first time the group considered using bonds for a Walton Arts Center project.

Starr Theater expansion with new dedicated lobby

Courtesy: Walton Arts Center

In April 2011, Mayor Lioneld Jordan suggested extending $9.5 million in Town Center bonds, set to be paid off in 2015, for up to 25 years. The move would have secured $6.7 million to contribute toward a new 600-seat theater on the arts center’s Fayetteville campus. At the time, University of Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart planned to match the commission’s award in order to help bring another performing arts hall near campus. Those plans fizzled once the university decided to build its own venue.

The commission will likely consider the request at the Jan. 14 meeting. If the group decides to extend bonds, the plan would be forwarded to the City Council. If the council were in favor, a bond extension would require voter approval.