The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (Nov. 9) will hear from officials with Minneapolis-based Conventions, Sports & Leisure about a feasibility study for an indoor sports facility.
After receiving Arkansas Tourism matching grant funds of $15,000, the city hired Conventions, Sports & Leisure on Sept. 30 to conduct a feasibility study on the arena for a cost not to exceed $30,000.
The study will include primary market research and analysis on the financial feasibility and potential economic impact of developing the complex and is expected to take 12-14 weeks to complete, a memo from Tim Jacobsen, executive director of the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau to City Administrator Carl Gefffken said.
Bill Krueger, principal of Convention Sports & Leisure International, will meet with city leaders and interested parties Monday (Nov. 8) through Wednesday (Nov. 10), including with the city directors at the Tuesday night study session. Krueger is scheduled to meet with city administrators, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith officials and other local stakeholders Monday. Along with the board of directors study session, he will have driving tours of Chaffee Crossing and potential sporting sites Tuesday. More meetings with local stakeholders are planned for Wednesday.
The final study will be utilized to determine the next steps of the potential indoor sports facility by reviewing interviews and conversations with various parties, local market condition analysis, competition and comparable facility analysis, market outreach, surveys, capital cost analysis, economic impact, and management and partnership options, the memo stated.
The Fort Smith Advertising & Promotion Commission approved $7,500 toward the feasibility study in April. The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved the city’s half of the $15,000 needed for the matching grant in May.
At the time the A&P Commission approved the funding, Jacobsen said the Fort Smith Convention Center has the capacity for meeting, feeding and breakout sessions or meeting, feeding and exhibits. An indoor sports facility could add to that by allowing the meeting, eating and breakout session at the convention center while exhibits could be at the other facility, or other combinational use of the two facilities, which could work to bring bigger conferences to Fort Smith, he said. The facility could be used for basketball, volleyball, concerts, weddings and much more.
“Everyone knows about cheerleading, dance, volleyball, those. But wrestling is the fastest growing indoor sport for tournaments. There is so much more out there,” Jacobsen said.
He said there is a void of this type of venue from Colorado to Tennessee, and Fort Smith needs to look at the feasibility of having one before Little Rock, Fayetteville or Springdale.
“If we’re going to do it, we need to do it before someone else does. There will only be the need for one,” he said.
Jacobsen said his research has shown that a 150,000-square-foot facility would cost about $40 million. He said he has no idea how that will be paid or whether the facility should be private or publicly funded, private owned or city owned, and if city owned whether a management company should run it. Those things, he said, are topics for the feasibility study.