Experience Fayetteville named tourism organization of the year, honored for Art Court project

Art Court (Mark Jackson, CHROMA / Courtesy Experience Fayetteville)

Experience Fayetteville, the city’s tourism bureau, received two Henry Awards at the 49th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism in El Dorado.

The group was named Tourism Organization of the Year and was also awarded The Natural State Tourism Development Award for its work on the innovative Art Court project on Dickson Street.

The Tourism Organization of the Year honor is given to a convention and visitors bureau, advertising and promotion commission, chamber of commerce or other entity that has stood out in the previous year. Experience Fayetteville broke HMR (hotel, motel and restaurant) tax collection records with a 144% year-over-year increase in lodging taxes for January 2022 and a 10.5% increase in sales tax revenue compared with January 2021.

Officials said the results were largely due to the 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, where thousands of fans, cyclists, team personnel, officials, and vendors filled up rooms across the city.

“We’ve been working hard to amplify the message that Fayetteville is a vibrant, forward-thinking place to live, work and play,” said Experience Fayetteville CEO Molly Rawn. “There are great things happening in Arkansas and we’re proud to have our work considered alongside that of our other great cities.”

Art Court, located at 227 W. Dickson Street, features a decorative basketball court that also serves as a community area. The space was originally a family-owned garage in the 1940s that eventually became Dickson Theater, a longtime local venue that hosted Sunday night drag shows, art events, a church, fashion shows and live music.

Art Court (Mark Jackson, CHROMA / Courtesy Experience Fayetteville)

The court is managed by Experience Fayetteville and was funded by a $236,000 grant from the Tyson Family Foundation.

“Part basketball court, roller skate park, public art, gym, hang out, you name it (Art Court) has ultimately become whatever the community wants it to be,” said Olivia Tyson, president of Tyson Family Foundation. “Today, it sits at the heart of the street’s lively nightlife scene and active pedestrian sidewalk, and we hope it continues to be a place visitors and residents make their own.”

The Henry Awards, named after Henri de Tonti, founder of Arkansas Post in 1686, have been a highlight of the annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism since its debut in 1981.

“I’m so proud of our talented team and I look forward to breaking more HMR records with them and encouraging more visitors to come experience Fayetteville,” said Rawn.