Arts Projects, Downtown Commercial Development Transforms Bentonville

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Mar. 14, 2011 12:00 am  

Terri Trotter, COO of the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, said the organization?s expansion plans for Bentonville and Fayetteville would likely be a catalyst for more commercial development.

Allyson Twiggs Dyer, director of the Rogers Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the WAC's expansion was a win for the whole region.

"Many times what we realize in our industry is that the tourist, the visitor, doesn't see any city lines, so the more they can do in the region, the better off I think we all are," she said.

Anytime a city in northwest Arkansas has a big project that draws visitors, "good things happen to us; whether it's Fayetteville or Bella Vista or wherever, that is good news for all of us. Because the more we're on the national stage, the more we're getting national attention, the more someone sitting in another city thinks, 'I ought to start a business there,'" she said.


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The announcement in December that the WAC would place its 2,200-seat performing arts center in Bentonville caused a bit of a stir. After the expansion is complete, Fayetteville, where the Walton Arts Center opened in 1992, will no longer be home to the region's largest performing arts venue.

In response, Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams raised the possibility of litigation, stating in a letter that the plan to build the new center in Bentonville was a violation of the agreement among the city, the University of Arkansas and the WAC. He stated that the WAC had a fiduciary duty to Fayetteville that would be violated by the construction of a larger facility elsewhere.

But that idea didn't get any traction with the UA, the city or the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. A resolution to renegotiate the contract to ensure quality programming would continue at the Fayetteville facility was defeated 6-2 by the city council.

Williams didn't rule out entirely the possibility of litigation against the WAC board but said it was unlikely.

"I was somewhat concerned about the issue of building the major auditorium in Bentonville and what it might do to the usage of the now only auditorium which is in Fayetteville on Dickson Street," Williams said.

"And I guess only time will tell what happens. We've been assured by the board of the Walton Arts Center and its executive director that we'll have the same programming as we have now here even after the other one is built," he said. "We'll just have to wait and see how that pans out."

Trotter said the expansion would only add to the amount of programming the WAC would be able to book.



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