AMP seeks ‘flexibility’ to remain at fairgrounds through 2014

Fans gather at the Arkansas Music Pavilion during the 2012 Taste of Country festival at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

Photo by Janie Blanchard, courtesy Arkansas Music Pavilion

Arkansas Music Pavilion officials on Monday requested a two-year extension on a permit that would allow the venue to hold concerts at the Washington County Fairgrounds through 2014.

Officials said on Tuesday, however, that they are not ready to commit to operating the venue at the fairgrounds past their current lease, which runs through the upcoming 2013 season.

“We want the flexibility to be able to be there,” said Beth Bobbitt, public relations manager for the venue on Tuesday.

AMP head of security Tommy Sisemore told members of the Fayetteville Planning Commission on Monday that venue officials “want to commit to be at the fairgrounds through 2014,” but Bobbitt maintained that plans beyond the 2013 season are still unclear.

“Right now, a lot of it depends on what happens with the search for a permanent location,” Bobbitt said. “We aren’t signing anything yet.”

The commission tabled the arts center’s extension request to allow more time for the public to comment on any potential noise concerns associated with the venue.

Cake performs at the AMP in April 2012.

Photo: Todd Gill

City planner Jesse Fulcher said that while planning staff hadn’t received any noise complaints generated from the venue in its first year at the fairgrounds in 2012, staff is aware that the Fayetteville Police Department has received at least some complaints from residents.

“There were 10 dates where (the police) did receive noise complaints, mostly west of the bypass,” Fulcher said. “Looking at the police reports that I have here, it didn’t appear that the AMP was violating either the noise ordinance, or the allowances they were given for the concert performances.”

Sisemore told the commission that the venue works closely with Fayetteville police to monitor the decibel level at the venue.

“We actually hire Fayetteville police officers for every event that goes on at the venue,” Sisemore said. “They take decibel readings hourly at all our property lines to make sure we’re in compliance, and any time a noise complaint comes in to the police department, they take a decibel reading at the same time.”

Walton Arts Center began the search for a new home for the Arkansas Music Pavilion after negotiations to construct a permanent facility the parking lot of the Northwest Arkansas Mall fell through in January 2012.

Since then, the Washington County Fairgrounds has served as a temporary location for the venue. The arts center’s lease at the fairgrounds is good through the 2013 season, but beyond that, the future of the facility remains uncertain.

“Right now, our priority is the Walton Arts Center expansion,” Bobbitt said. “The search for a new AMP location site is really kind of on the back burner for the moment. We could be at the fairgrounds for another season in 2014, we’re just not sure at this point.”

The commission is expected to discuss the extension again at their next regular meeting on Feb. 11.