Walton Arts Center Expansion Update 12/21/2012

The Fayetteville City Council has recently chosen the Theater Lot as the location for the planned 246-space parking deck. The plan requires demolition of the Walton Arts Center administrative offices, which is good news in that it expedites the Walton Arts Center plans to expand the Fayetteville facilities.

On December 18, the Walton Arts Center Board of Directors voted to “fast track” the design and fundraising efforts for the expansion so that our timeline fits with the construction of the new parking deck. Next steps include hiring Boora Architects to work with the city parking deck team on construction plans. Walton Arts Center also plans to submit a formal request for design, pre-construction and construction funds to the A&P Commission.

Over the past year, Walton Arts Center has worked to refine plans for a multi-campus expansion strategy to meet the growing arts and culture needs in Northwest Arkansas. Right now, the biggest priority is the $20M Fayetteville main campus expansion which adds 30,000 gross square feet of space. Walton Arts Center is currently operating close to full capacity so the need is critical. In 2002, Walton Arts Center served 149,000 patrons, school children and community members. Just 10 short years later in 2012, more than 239,000 people attended 453 performances, activities, meetings and events at WAC. This is an astonishing 61% increase.

As audiences have grown, the constraints of the facility have become clear: the main lobby cannot accommodate average-sized crowds for performances in the large hall or support audiences for events happening simultaneously around campus; Starr Theater is too small, both for performances and events; the offices cannot accommodate the current or additional staff as the organization grows; and backstage space is inadequate. In fact, in order to accommodate shows with large sets, Starr Theater are routinely closed and turned into storage space, reducing the number of events that can be held at the center.

The focus of the expansion and renovation will be on the following areas:

  • Backstage: support spaces will be added
  • Baum Walker Hall: new lighting system
  • Main Lobby: enlarged and extend out onto the plaza
  • Starr Theater: new lobby and entrance plaza and capacity increased to 250 from 165
  • Rose Garden: reconfigured for more accessibility
  • Larger Office Building to house WAC’s growing Administrative Headquarters