by Sam Eifling
Posted 12/9/2013 12:00 am
Updated 9 months ago
All right, quick story. Because it takes place in Fayetteville, there’s a Razorbacks angle, naturally.
Feb. 10, 1991. I was in the sixth grade, and like every other kid (and adult) in Fayetteville, fairly smitten with the Arkansas men’s basketball team. The Hogs were coming off a Final Four appearance, ranked No. 2 in the country, and hosting No. 1 UNLV, the reigning national champ. CBS was in town for the national telecast. Per big-game custom, my family was at Jose’s Mexican Restaurant on Dickson Street, just off campus, probably slurping down chips and salsa as fast as the waiters could sling it.
In those days, every piece of national attention that came Northwest Arkansas’ way was to be savored. This was before the business media were quite so obsessed with Walmart. It was long before the onslaught of cultural chroniclers declaring Bentonville — with its pipeline of incoming professionals and the enormous resource in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art — a global cultural destination in the making. This even pre-dated Bill Clinton’s run for the Presidency. Arkansas simply didn’t warrant much notice from the coasts.
But by the winter of ‘91, Money magazine had named Fayetteville among the best places in the country to live — No. 7, if I recall correctly, one of the best anywhere, just like the basketball team (even after UNLV left town with the win).
The shout-out could scarcely have been more flattering. Little did we know then, it presaged a period of constant transformation. In the past generation Fayetteville’s population has doubled, to nearly 80,000. The metropolitan area — anchored also by Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville — has swelled to nearly half a million people, with arrivals from Texas, southern California, Chicago, Oklahoma and all around Arkansas. People come for the pace of life, for the healthy job market, for the mild, four-season climate, for the quality schools, for the chance to afford a house and, increasingly, for the chance to create great music, food and art. To live in northwest Arkansas is to feel connected to an ongoing boom, one that, as a newcomer, you’re joining.
This guide is an attempt to highlight some of the features that make Northwest Arkansas distinct. Inside you’ll meet a few of the transplants who, like you, have made that move. You’ll get a feel for the dining, culture, sports, pastimes and nightlife that make Northwest Arkansas a rich place to call home. And you’ll find resources to help you settle, to find a good hospital and to pick the right school for your kids. Our hope is you’ll start to get a sense of what makes this place here.
One caveat, though: Whatever we think we know about the area is ever-changing. You’re arriving at an opportune moment, as Northwest Arkansas may only now be figuring out what it’s going to become. What we do with our newfound notoriety and steady success remains an open question — one you get to help answer.