by Kayli Farris
Senior Staff Writer
Walton Arts Center officials have plans to expand to Bentonville, in addition to renovating their current Fayetteville location.
The Bentonville location will include a 2,000 seat hall, with a 200 seat education center in the downtown area, said Bethany Goodwin, WAC public relations manager. The project is to be completed in 2018.
By 2015, the WAC in Fayetteville will be renovated to include many updates and amenities, Goodwin said.
“We want to add 30,000 square feet of space, expanding the lobby and plaza to Dickson Street, creating a vibrant streetscape,” she said. “We also want to increase the capacity of Starr Theater, add a dedicated entrance on West Avenue, add backstage space, a catering kitchen, more bathrooms, storage and new administrative buildings.”
Officials said they hope the WAC renovation will positively influence the Fayetteville community and Dickson Street entertainment district.
The renovation will bring more shows and events to Dickson Street, stimulate business in the downtown area, provide a more up-to-date venue for musicians and artists and increase performance opportunities for local arts groups, according to the WAC website.
“New event space throughout the complex meets NWA’s growing need for meeting, conference and special event space, bringing people to Dickson Street at varying times of the day,” according to the site.
Students said change is good, and they hope the renovations bring improvement to Fayetteville.
“Renovating to better suit the shows that come in will be beneficial and hopefully bring more shows into Fayetteville and northwest Arkansas,” said Chance Weith, a freshman drama student.
Eric Carter, a junior psychology major, said he is disappointed with the current size of the WAC.
“The fact that my high school of less than 3,000 had a larger facility for the arts than my city of 70,000 or my college of 25,000 is rather appalling,” he said.
Jesse Raphael, an accounting student, said because he is a student who lives in Bentonville, he said he is thrilled about the expansion in the region.
However, one student said he thinks renovations won’t help the WAC.
“A renovation won’t bring more students to the WAC,” said Cole Rath, a senior information systems student. “The WAC needs to have more events catered to students.”
In 2013, the WAC board will choose a design team, create and budget for the design and begin construction for renovations of the Fayetteville location, according to the WAC preliminary expansion timeline. The design and budgetary process for the Bentonville location will not begin until 2015, after the Fayetteville renovations are complete.
Designs for the renovations are in progress, as management is still in the planning phase, Goodwin said.
There are plans for a fundraising campaign to raise money to complete the expansion and renovations, Goodwin said.
The WAC board also passed a resolution to encourage the Fayetteville City Council to continue the plans for constructing a new parking garage in the Dickson Street area, according to the WAC website.