Walton Arts Center hosts tour of construction site

Contractor David Swain leads a tour of the Walton Arts Center’s new administrative offices in downtown Fayetteville.

Photo: Clayton Taylor

The first phase of construction on an expanded Walton Arts Center facility is nearly complete on Dickson Street.

Arts center officials on Tuesday led board members on a tour of the construction site to highlight the progress made on the facility this summer.

The arts center has been closed since July 1 for phase one of the $23 million project that will ultimately result in a new lobby and entryway, an expanded Starr Theater, and other amenities.

Photo: Clayton Taylor

The project includes a new 16,500-square-foot building that lines the north side of the city’s new parking deck. The top two floors of the building will house the arts center’s roughly 30-member staff, and the bottom floor includes areas for storage of musical instruments, dressing rooms, production space and offices, laundry facilities, a wig/makeup room, additional storage, and other upgrades.

Walton Arts Center CEO Peter Lane told the board he expects the city’s municipal parking deck, which has been in construction alongside the art center’s project, to be open in late October. Little Rock-based construction company Baldwin and Shell has been working on construction of that project for about a year.

Arts center officials plan to move into the office facility sometime next month, and many of the backstage amenities planned as part of the expansion will also be available in time for the upcoming season.

“We’ll have the admin building wrapping up – with fixtures, and furnishings, and everything, on or before Oct. 22,” said Mike Johnson, UA Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities, who heads up the WAC board’s facilities committee.

Construction on the interior of the building is expected to halt in time for the Walton Arts Center’s planned 2015-16 season in November.

Temporary walls and covered walkways that lead into the center’s main hall will be constructed so that patrons will be able to attend this year’s lineup of Broadway shows and other performances. Construction of the arts center’s exterior will continue through the winter.

“We’re calling it our hard hat season,” Lane said.

The WAC plans to close again next summer for continued construction, which is expected to be completed by November 2016.

The upcoming season opens Nov. 10 with the Broadway show, Pippin.