Walton Arts Center closed for roofing repairs

The Walton Arts Center on Dickson Street

Staff photo

Structural issues are the reason for the rescheduling or relocation of three shows planned at the Walton Arts Center last week, officials announced today.

According to a letter to patrons sent Monday by Walton Arts Center CEO Peter Lane, engineers working on the planned expansion project on the Dickson Street facility uncovered a “significant problem” with the structural trussing of the arts center’s main theatre, Baum Walker Hall. Upon further analysis, Lane said, those engineers advised the entire building be closed until the repairs are complete.

The issues resulted in the the rescheduling of the planned 50 Shades of Grey parody, Spank Harder last Tuesday, and the relocation and consolidation of the Ron White/Margo Rey shows to the Arkansas Music Pavilion last weekend.

Construction is expected to be complete in late summer or early fall, Lane said, before the start of the Walton Arts Center’s fall season.

The first show of the arts center’s Broadway season is set for Oct. 21-26 with 1920s era musical, Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Read Lane’s full letter below.

You may have heard last week that we postponed and relocated several shows that were scheduled at Walton Arts Center. The issue behind these schedule changes was an unanticipated problem with the roof on our main building. This morning, upon receipt of further analysis from our engineering team, we decided to temporarily close the entire building in order to further assess and repair the situation. As a valued patron, I wanted you to know exactly what is happening and how it is being addressed.

Early last week, our engineering team working on plans for our upcoming renovation made us aware of a significant problem they discovered in the structural trussing of Baum Walker Hall. They advised us that it would require immediate, precautionary closing of the main theater. This weekend, upon further analysis, they advised we close the entire building while they continue to analyze the magnitude of the problem, the costs involved, and the time it will take to complete the repairs.

The work was part of our on-going expansion planning for the theater. We knew we would need to reinforce the trussing system in our roof in order to meet the expected future demands of larger touring productions. We intended to begin this work in the summer of 2015. While doing the forensic investigation of the existing trusses and the evaluation of how much additional support would be needed, the architect and engineering firms discovered that the current load on the existing trusses appeared to be excessive. This apparent structural deficiency meant that Baum Walker Hall might not be safe for public occupancy.

Once this situation was evaluated by the structural engineers and these additional details became evident, we took immediate action and closed the hall to any further activity, rescheduling the remaining shows and events during June and July. Further study by the engineering team in the days since that time suggested possible impact on the whole building. As a result, we have taken the additional precautionary step to close the main Walton Arts Center building including our box office which will be temporarily located in Nadine Baum Studios.

The building will remain closed until we shore up the existing trusses and repairs can be completed. We expect all work to be completed by late summer or early fall of 2014 in time to begin our next season of arts and entertainment.

We are extremely grateful to our engineering, construction and architectural teams that helped to discover this previously unknown issue. There are still many variables impacting this complex engineering problem and we are learning new and updated information almost daily.

We deeply regret the inconvenience to patrons, clients and staff who have been affected by this significant issue; however, the overall safety of our public and our staff must remain paramount.