by Max Brantley
Last night, the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville released a consultants' report to be considered by the Center board today that is said to "verify" the need for a new 600-seat performance hall in Fayetteville and a 2,000-seat new performance center in downtown Bentonville.
Here's a summary of the report, which indicates the new mid-sized performance hall would be built on the University of Arkansas campus in a renovation of the old field house for primary use by the UA music department. The new Bentonville center would be slightly smaller than the 2,200-seat facility originally envisioned. A renovation of the existing facility is also recommended. The study touches, too, on hopes of developing a 6,400-capacity amphitheater for the outdoor music pavilion recently relocated to the Washington County Fairgrounds.
The changing shape of the organization is demonstrated by the news release. Though existing Walton Center facilities are solely in Fayetteville, the dateline read "Northwest Arkansas." There was a bit of bruised feelings in some quarters about the first indications that the center, established in part with Fayettevill tax support, would branch into Bentonville with a larger performance venue. But it was an inevitable development and the board confirmed the idea last year. It will be a complementary addition to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and related activity in Bentonville.
A Walton Center spokesman tells me there are only preliminary costs estimates. Financing and fund-raising are the next phases of the study.