Walton Arts Center Expansion Moves Forward

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 12:00 am  

Trotter and Jordan said the center is crucial to the economics of downtown Fayetteville. Trotter said studies show that visitors to the Arts Center spend an average of $20 in addition to what they spend on tickets.

Trotter said that is the main reason businesses on Dickson Street were such advocates for the bond issue being passed.

“It’s certainly a symbiotic relationship,” Trotter said. “One of the things people like about coming to the Walton Arts Center is coming to Dickson Street. It’s a big part of our brand and who we are.”

Trotter said the lobby expansion is planned first. The lobby will be expanded by about 11,000 SF, which Trotter said will give the center space to rent out for special events.

Trotter said the center wants to have construction start next summer during production offseason so the center can be shut down from mid-July to October. “It is the biggest logistical challenge,” Trotter said. “That is very light programming [months] for us. It gives us a nice chunk of time, but we do plan to open up with a full season of entertainment in October.”

The expanded lobby will be reoriented to face Dickson Street rather than the intersection of Dickson and West. That, too, was planned. “We wanted it to have a stronger presence on Dickson Street,” Tingley said. “It will feel more connected to Dickson Street.”

The trickiest planning involved the backstage areas. The parking garage will take up so much space on the lot that Tingley had little room to spare in devising where to add nearly 15,000 SF of storage area for the center’s 1,201-seat Baum Walker Hall.

The need was great. Trotter said that because modern productions require so much space for things such as storage and dressing rooms, the center had to cannibalize the 160-seat Starr Theater for use as a big closet. Starr Theater was unusable 100 days a year because of its duty as Baum Walker Hall storage. Expanding backstage will allow use of the smaller theater for productions and special events.

Tingley’s final design has the additional space contained in a three-story “sliver” of a building about 50 feet wide. The design will also expand Starr Theater by 4,000 SF to seat 250 people.

Trotter said the council expects all construction to be finished in 2016, but there are no hard deadlines because those details will be determined after the contractor is hired in December. When it is completed, Trotter said the center will be able to host more than the 200,000 patrons it served in 2012 and it will be able to host more special events and community workshops.

“It’s a big win for the city,” Jordan said. “It gave a real jump-start to the Walton Arts Center and real jump-start to the city of Fayetteville. It’s an economic engine and it helps with the advancement of the arts.”



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