Art-themed basketball courts coming to former Dickson Theater location

Photo: Abigail Atkinson

Try to think of the very last headline you thought you’d see on the Flyer today. Got it? Ok here goes.

Was it “Art-themed basketball courts coming to former Dickson Theater location?” If it was, well, great job. You’d be right (liar).

Crews have been working the last few weeks to demolish the building, formerly located at 227 W. Dickson Street next to the old Dickson Theater, to make way for a new project created in partnership with the Tyson Family Foundation and Experience Fayetteville called ‘Art Court.’

The project, according to foundation representative Jordan Garner, who is serving as the project lead for Art Court, is to create an art-themed basketball court and public, community space on the site. The project would be managed by Experience Fayetteville and funded by a $236,000 Tyson Family Foundation grant.

“We engaged with the Experience Fayetteville team last summer to begin discussions about the opportunity and the Experience Fayetteville team has been an incredible partner,” Garner said. “Their role in the three-year project will be funded entirely through philanthropic dollars and will focus on the day-to-day operations and communications. Experience Fayetteville and Fayetteville’s A&P Commission are proven leaders in tourism, proactive in promoting the diverse residents, businesses, and happenings that make Fayetteville a top place to live and visit.”

Experience Fayetteville CEO Molly Rawn said she expects the visitors bureau’s role in the project will include opening and closing the space each day, managing social media, and maintaining the space with things like paint, supplies and nets.

Rawn said she doesn’t anticipate programming the space for events, however.

“We don’t anticipate using for events and things like that,” she said. “We want it to be open and available. I think that’s what is one of the things that is most interesting about the project is, we don’t know exactly how people will use it, whether it’s just playing pick up games, or as a place to just hang out, or as a place to take photos. We are excited to open it up and see how people use the space.”

The basketball courts won’t be full-sized once complete, but they will be fully functional for pick-up basketball, or a friendly game of ‘H-O-R-S-E.’

Artists from local creative agency BLKBOX are working on the design for the space, Garner said.

“It will be a free, public community space with art and play,” Garner said. “There will be elements of basketball as well. It will be open air and we plan to use portions of the existing building, a nod back to the colorful past and memories of the various businesses once located at 227 W Dickson.”

The project came about in part, Garner said, through a placemaking conference foundation officials attended in 2019 that emphasized the importance of outdoor public spaces in a community.

Garner said the group is hoping to use the project as a testing ground for future, similar projects in the region.

“TFF and the property owner Art Court, LLC hope that by turning the unused property into a pocket-park-like project it will allow us to better understand how our community interacts with a public space in our Downtown District,” she said. “We hope to learn how the space is used and how it wants to be used and share these learnings with the City of Fayetteville for the opening of The Ramble, our Downtown Arts and Culture Corridor.”

Property records indicate building last sold in 2018 to HMT of Fayetteville L.L.C., the same company that owns the Three Sisters Building across the street. HMT purchased from CB Real Estate Holdings L.L.C., a group had hoped to build a movie theatre on the property before abandoning the project in 2018. The property was deeded to Art Court in April of this year.

Construction on the project is underway, with contractor CDI Construction working on the build and landscape design by Ecological Design Group.

If all goes well, Garner said more announcements about the project are due out later this summer, and she hopes to have the project up and running by sometime this fall.