First-time visitors this season to Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium — and, if you didn’t heed my advice and attend the Oct. 14 UAPB-Grambling game, you should have; it was a terrific day — will notice significant improvements to the stadium. First, at midfield, is a nice new logo, a red W over a blue M inside a white box with three stars on the sides. At concession stands on the east and west sides, flat-screen TVs will let folks keep up with the game on the field. Big screens for replays were added on both scoreboards last season. The artificial turf originally put in a couple of seasons back wore out too quickly and was replaced over the summer. It’s still strange to see this dark cloud of dust come rising up when a punt hits the turf.
The stadium commission unveiled new tailgating plans a few weeks back. Reserved tailgating spots, 10-feet-by-20-feet spaces to accommodate a car and an EZ-Up, were leased for $120 for the season on the golf course, and $20 spots will be available on Saturday, when Arkansas plays Louisiana-Monroe in the first of two games in the Capital City (the Hogs also play LSU the day after Thanksgiving here). The $20 parking price on the course for tailgating is a $10 jump from last season, but the stadium lost about 2,000 spaces for parking on the east side due to construction at UAMS. I’ve heard griping by some callers on the local radio call-in shows of late about the price increase. My advice: Look around the country and take note of what parking is costing at college games, and realize that the stadium has to pay a hefty sum for security (and while we’re on the subject of security, here’s hoping some of the attitudes of the security people on the golf course are better this year than they were following the Mississippi State game last season; rushing people off 30 minutes after the game’s over is no way to make the tailgating experience complete). The $60 per game reserved spots are in line with what the UA is charging for reserved tailgating in its new “Gardens” south of the stadium. And few college stadiums in the country offer general parking as close to the event as what’s found at War Memorial Stadium.
With the parking changes comes traffic redirection this season. Only the folks parking on the golf course will be using Fair Park this year; folks with UA scholarship parking on the east side will use the Pine/Cedar exit off I-630 and Palm and Monroe streets off Markham, and Jonesboro Drive off 12th Street. If you’ve ever been in traffic just off I-630 and Fair Park, you know the change is long overdue.
If the street names and numbers confuse you, just look for the new color-coded signs. Scholarship parkers will follow the red signs; general admission golf course parking should follow the blue ones. The reserved tailgaters can start arriving at 6 a.m.
On Tuesday, the stadium commission and manager Charlie Staggs presented a $15,000 check to the Little Rock Zoo. Because the game will conflict with “Boo at the Zoo,” the Zoo scratched its Saturday date. Staggs said that even though the conflicting game date was out of the stadium’s control, the donation “is the right and neighborly thing to do.”
If there’s anything to complain about in terms of entertainment in Central Arkansas during October, it’s that there is too much to do and too much scheduled on the same night. This weekend is a prime example, and it’s made worse in that Al Green’s original Aug. 19 date had to be rescheduled to Friday. The move was made because of intense hot weather; here’s hoping we’re not bundled up for a wintry Friday night at Riverfest Amphitheatre, though heaven knows if any singer can warm up the crowd, it’s Arkansas’s native son Green.
Friday also marks the debut of a new and exciting nighttime venue in Little Rock: The Village. Jon Love of Hitchhiker Entertainment saw the need for a 1,000-seat venue in a easily accessible location, and there was the old Cinema 150, sitting unused at the corner of Asher and University avenues since 2003.
Alt-country-rock Lucero and Little Rock native Ben Nichols will be the opening show on Friday. On Saturday, the music turns heavier with national act Norma Jean. Rwake, a local heavy group on the national Relapse label, will party at The Village on Halloween.
The Village fills yet another hole that Little Rock has endured in the club market for some time. First, we saw the Revolution Room open in June, offering a 600-seat venue that doubled the capacities of Sticky Fingerz and Juanita’s, which for the longest along with Vino’s have been Little Rock’s major spots for regional and national touring acts. A need still remained for a club in the 700-1,500-seat range. Acts lined up for the Village — like Pete Yorn on Nov. 11 — likely will demand that size room.