by Max Brantley
After many years in the works, Memphis may close a deal today that will put a Bass Pro Shops in the old Pyramid arena.
If so, does this lessen the already slim chances of a Bass Pro Shops about 140 miles to the west, smack in the wetlands of Dark Hollow in North Little Rock? I'm sure Boss Hays would say otherwise, despite the meritorious environmental lawsuit pending over the wetlands disaster this would cause. Despite evidence elsewhere that giveaways for sporting good stores don't seem to produce the economic bonanzas anticipated. Despite a severe limitation in the tax increment finance law by which Boss Hays had originally hoped to plunder local schools for corporate welfare payments. Despite the absence of the many millions necessary to make a useful highway connection to the site. Despite concerns about the new problems the development would add to an already nightmarish traffic situation at I-40 and the Jacksonville freeway.
Please note when Boss Hays talks about the trickle-down effects of pouring public money into such projects: North Little Rock has gotten a publicly financed arena and baseball park in the last decade, plus a trolley system. It has set up TIF districts wherever possible. It enticed a Walmart over from Sherwood. It has done everything possible, with some handsome results, to redevelop downtown. Population gain over the last decade: Zero. Tax revenues? Declining.
UPDATE: Richard H. Mays, the environmental lawyer in Heber Springs, who successfully challenged the inadequate environmental assessment for the Dark Hollow development, says that suit is now over. The 8th Circuit dismissed an appeal of federal Judge Bill Wilson's ruling. The Corps of Engineers could perform a full environmental assessment, on both wetlands damage and traffic issues, but Mays said it would be expensive and he didn't think the Corps would be likely to undertake it nor the private developers be likely to do it. The case will be difficult to make, he said, and the economy further argues against moving forward, particularly with NLR's money woes and an absence of state or federal money. He thinks the project won't be built.