Walmart AMP on track to open this June in Rogers, Ark.

Arkansas’ largest shed is being built with the backing of the world’s largest retail chain

  • by Lisa White
  • Published: February 18, 2014

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Rendering for the proposed Walmart AMP, Fayetteville, Ark.

The Walton Arts Center (WAC) recently announced that Walmart will be the founding title sponsor for the Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) in Fayetteville and will be renamed the Walmart AMP. The chain’s title sponsorship was the result of a $2.5-million capital investment gift along with additional support and services over the next decade.

Also helping to finance the $11.5-million project is Arkansas billionaire Johnelle Hunt, who donated the land and a $3-million interest-free loan, as well as the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, which donated $2.5 million. These gifts include naming rights for the Hunt Pavilion and Walker Plaza, respectively. Much of the remaining amount is being subsidized by the WAC and six corporate sponsors that were not yet revealed at press time.

Walton Arts Center purchased AMP in February 2011 as part of an expansion strategy to meet the growing demand for more arts and entertainment in the region. The former amphitheater was a temporary facility located adjacent to the center at the Fayetteville Fairgrounds.

“This is the third year the WAC has been in charge of the AMP,” said Bethany Bobbitt, public relations director at the Walton Arts Center.

The new project kicked off last May with 90 percent of the necessary funding. Construction on the new amphitheater at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers began last October and, despite weather challenges, the project is still on track to open this June. It is located about 20 miles north of the WAC.

According to the Walton Family Foundation Quality of Life Survey, 67% of northwest Arkansas residents wanted an outdoor music venue, which was the highest percentage of any other desired amenity.

“We were surprised at how successful the temporary venue has been, and our research showed the community supported a new outdoor venue,” said Peter Lane, WAC’s president and CEO. “With the mindset of attracting today’s tours and providing at least a partially-covered venue, we started raising money and landed on this location.”

The project team includes Core Architects in Rogers; Chicago theater consultants Schuler Shook, which also is working on WAC’s main hall renovations; Crossland Construction Co. in Kansas City, Mo.; and Birdair Inc. in Amherst, N.Y., which is constructing the pavilion cover.

The new amphitheater will have strong technical capabilities, improved access, an increased seating capacity of 7,000, including 3,000 covered and 4,000-plus lawn seats, greater sightlines and Arkansas’ largest stage house.

It will include a 5,430-square-foot permanent stage, 34,500-square-foot covered pavilion, VIP lounge area with bar and restroom, and a plaza with restrooms and concessions stands.

“The difference between the new venue and the previous facility is we’ll attract a broader audience since we’re now in a permanent home,” Bobbitt said. “Currently we’re at about 12% crossover between Walton Arts Center and AMP audiences, so this is an opportunity for both venues to draw more people.”

In past years, 35% of AMP audiences came from outside the county, and it’s predicted this number will rise due to the new location, which is located right off a main interstate.

Northwest Arkansas now houses more than a half million people in addition to a large entertainment district that includes retail, restaurants and entertainment venues.

“There has been an influx of people who work for companies that service Walmart and have high expectations, so this region is experiencing a huge boom right now,” Lane said.

“With Walmart’s sponsorships, we anticipate the AMP will host more events outside of concerts,” Bobbitt said. “The nearby convention center also will provide added opportunities for this facility.”

Already on the schedule is country artist Jake Owen, who is performing on Sept. 11. Willie Nelson and Family along with Alison Krauss and Union Station, recently announced a show at the venue on July 7. On-sale dates for these shows and others will be announced beginning in March.

“We are an open venue, so will work directly with promoter partners for bookings,” Lane said.

Each year more than 200,000 people from Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma and other states attend over 350 public events at Walton Arts Center.

As a nonprofit organization, the center is supported by public sector funding, corporate sponsorship and private donors, allowing audience members to pay on average half the cost of programs offered.

Interviewed for this article: Bethany Bobbitt, (479) 571-2747; Peter Lane, (610) 416-1153

  • by Lisa White
  • Published: February 18, 2014