Walton Arts Center, regional park projects to begin construction in 2014

Now that Fayetteville voters have agreed to help fund Walton Arts Center renovations and a planned regional park, officials are eager to get both projects underway.

We talked to Peter Lane, CEO of the Walton Arts Center, and Connie Edmonston, the city’s parks and recreation director, after the final results were revealed for the Nov. 12 special bond election. Here’s what each had to say about the next steps for expansion of the Walton Arts Center and the development of the regional park:

Walton Arts Center expansion

Michael Tingley, design principal of Boora Architects, speaks during a public input session Tuesday night.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

Lane said Tuesday his biggest priority in making the expanded Walton Arts Center a reality is to raise the remaining funds needed for the project.

While voters approved $6.9 million in funding for the facility, preliminary estimates for the renovations have been in the neighborhood of $20 million.

“This is just the first step, but it allows us to move forward with the next serious phase of fundraising,” Lane said. “This vote sends a message (to donors) that the city, and our citizens are behind this project, and that they believe in the project and in the potential impact it will have on our city and our region.”

Lane said he’s optimistic that funds will be raised quickly and that construction will soon be underway.

“Hopefully construction will begin by next summer, and over the course of the next two years, we can roll out all these wonderful plans,” he said.

Lane said another priority is to finalize the design for the expansion, and that while renderings for the new facility recently presented by Boora Architects are conceptually solid, there is still some refining to be done.

“The teams have to take the architects’ design, make sure it’s going to work, and make sure it’s going to be within a price that makes sense,” he said. “Does the door need to go there or does it need to go over here? We’ve got to iron it out, and put it in paper format so it can really get to the next level of design.”

Michael Tingley, design principal of Boora Architects, said recently that construction would be broken into two year-long phases to allow the renovation to occur while maintaining operation of the arts center. Lobby work would start first, with backstage and Starr Theater construction coming after that. Tingley estimated the final completion date to be sometime in mid-2016.

Once complete, the renovations will include a new facade and entryway on Dickson Street, a larger lobby, an expanded Starr Theatre. Additional amenities will include more restrooms, concessions and increased accessibility.

» Read more about the expansion plan

Regional Park plans

Conceptual master plan for the city’s regional park.

City of Fayetteville

Edmonston said she was excited to get the project started, but that it will be a while before residents are able to enjoy a new regional park in southwest Fayetteville.

“We’ll be able to start on the soccer and baseball fields first, along with the great lawn where we’ll add a large pavilion and playground,” said Edmonston.

Once the park is completed, Edmonston said it will be more than just a youth sports complex.

“We want a one-stop recreational area for our kids to play soccer, baseball and softball, but we also want a place where Mom and Dad can do something,” she said. “It’s going to be a place for the entire family, for University of Arkansas students, for every citizen.”

Edmonston said developing the park will take some time, but the plan is to move the project along as fast as possible.

“We just hired some consultants that to do the engineering work,” she said. “It will probably be next fall by the time we start turning dirt.”

» Read more about the regional park plan