Friday, December 3, 2010

Waltons' Arts Center

The rich are different from you and me. They don't have to play by the rules, and they always get their way. If you believe that things are fair or that merit can ever beat money, you weren't paying attention at events in Fayetteville this week.

You will remember that the Walton Arts Center bought a survey that said they needed a 2,200 seat theater. Then they developed a very specific list of criteria that would determine the location of this new theater and asked for proposals. The University of Arkansas-City of Fayetteville proposal was far and away the best submitted among the 25 submitted. This week the WAC Facilities Committee and the WAC Board voted overwhelmingly to build the big theater in Bentonville at a site to be found later, those specific criteria be damned. City and University officials and local citizens were not even allowed to comment. Bullshit walked.

In fact, there was only one thing that determined the obsequious WAC Board's compliant decision -- what the billionaire Waltons wanted, where they wanted it, and how much money they might toss to transform the old Benton County Sale Barn into a palace for Broadway shows.

Here's what you can learn from this shameless charade and how you can start calling the shots about anything and everything in Northwest Arkansas, from playhouses to regional transportation infrastructure:

(1) Inherit billions of dollars;
(2) Invest a few million in an unaccountable private non-profit
(3) Hire a hand-picked over-paid flunky to run the organization
(4) Sponsor a slanted survey to feign interest in public opinion
(5) Fake the survey results and ignore the official criteria
(6) Make large campaign contributions to compliant politicians
(7) Spend your money however you want
(8) Be smug at the impotence of the unfunded opposition

This is the way things have always worked, and it would be naive to pretend otherwise. The unwashed should be thankful that the Waltons are spending money on the arts in Bentonville, a cultural wasteland that needs all the help it can get. I mean, they could have decided to build a bigger Christ of the Ozarks in Rogers to compete with the sacred projects of Gerald L. K. Smith.


  1. The sad thing is that all the noise from FayetteNam will be attributed to sour grapes rather than true uproar over a completely rigged process.

    The Walton Arts Center board should be ashamed of themselves for not being honest. They should have just told it like it is: we will put this new building wherever whoever long as they have $100,000,000 to help us make that decision.

    I bought a lottery ticket a few weeks ago hoping that I would have won and had enough to start a real bidding war with the Walton's.

  2. I wish the WAC Board had voted to build a 2,200 seat theater in Fayetteville, but I understand why they didn't. The only real support offered came from the University and the City in their excellent proposal, but neither offered to pay for the 2,200 seater that Peter Lane and his staff demanded.

    The Walton Billionaires did pledge money. Fayetteville doesn't have any billionaires, but we do have millionaires who offered nothing. The Chamber of Commerce and its members offered nothing. The Dickson Street businesses that thrive on the WAC offered nothing and opposed the City's efforts to find revenue. If you read the comments on the Fayetteville Flyer, the commenting class is against both paid parking and the WAC generally. The City Attorney is threatening to sue the Board members now, although he was curiously silent about sources for funding before the vote.

    I have yet to see any evidence for local support, except the City/UA, so it appears to have been a logical decision to get financing for the larger venue.

  3. Could it be that The Waltons, sales reps for cheap Chinese junk manufacturers, did not want to offend their Chinese sweatshop associates by investing in Fayetteville, where the Dali Lama has been invited to speak next year?

  4. It's the Regional Airport all over again. Same players, same results.

    I assume the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce is supportive of moving the WAC to Bentonville.

    Does anyone know for sure what their position is?

  5. Speaking of the Dali Lama, everyone knows that his #2 man lives here now. But why here of all places, you might ask, unless perhaps its to aim some Tibetan voodoo at W-M headquarters----the biggest friend of their biggest enemy.

  6. Speaking of Fayetteville's lack of civic deep pockets the Wal- Martins said they would spring for half the tab for a 2200 seat theatre.

    Bentonville has never shown much civic support until the Wal-Martins need to rid themselves of more pre-deducted tax trust fund money. It will be interesting to see if Wal-Martins can squeeze the remainder from their minions.

    This is going to be more fun for reporters than ever imagined.
    Bring in the leaks,
    there must be leaks,
    Maybe next year.

  7. .

    "The Walton Arts Center board should be ashamed of themselves for not being honest."

    Except for Bill Waite, owner of Dickson St Liquor who happens to be a prince of a fellow. He also was the only NO vote on the entire board and mentioned that he did not understand why the proceedings had been hurried along in such a manner with little discussion.

    I have a question for anyone who may know:


    The WAC Board of Directors can be found by clicking here.
    Note that 10 of the BOD have strong Wal-Mart ties.

    HOW IS THE BOARD SELECTED? That's the crucible.


  8. L: surely you mean WAL-MARTIANS as our planetary neighbor is the only logical expansion site for the bigbox bullies?

  9. The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce is definitely not in favor of the move to Bentonville, and was very involved in the Fayetteville proposal.

    Also, it is incorrect to say the Fayetteville proposal offered no funding. It was the only proposal that did include funding. Fayetteville just couldn't compete with the ability to write a $90M check.

    It's a crime that Lane and the WAC board (with the exception of Mr. Waite) put everyone through this when they had no intention of abiding by their own selection criteria.

  10. Yes, it's true... Fayetteville would never have been able to round up enough money to build the 2,200-seater. Does Fayetteville's lack of funds mean that a 2,200 seat theater shouldn't be built anywhere? If the WAC is to grow, it has to build this theater. WAC officials know this, and that’s why they decided to build in Bentonville.

    The bottom line is that the money has to come from somewhere, and that “somewhere” is the Walton Foundation. They want it built in Bentonville, so it’ll be built in Bentonville. Without this support, the necessary expansion would be impossible (b/c nobody else can provide enough money). Is this a bad thing? How can you blame WAC officials for going with the only plan that provided adequate funding?

    The fact is, Fayetteville can’t afford the new theater and Bentonville can. Get over it.

    The funds to build the 2,200-seat theater were ONLY available if WAC built in Bentonville. Do you expect the WAC to say “No! F#@K your money, Walton Foundation. We’d just as soon not expand if it means that we have to build a venue outside of Fayetteville”? Are you people insane? WAC has to remain fiscally viable just like anybody else…

    Besides all this, I doubt Fayetteville would even be able to sustain a theater this size in the long term. There’s not enough money in the city to keep it going. Bentonville’s vendor population alone makes Bentonville a better option than Fayetteville long term.

    And when you really think about it, putting this thing in Bentonville will probably help Fayetteville out more than it would by keeping it in the city. No new 2,200-seater = no money for the region… A new 2,200-seater in Bentonville = money for the region (sure Bentonville gets the most of these benefits, but the entire regions benefits as well). I’d rather have something than nothing, and I’m guessing Fayetteville would too.

    I’m disappointed that WAC didn’t keep the new theater in Fayetteville, but I’m not an impractical, short-sided moron. I don’t blame them for doing what’s best for the future.

  11. I would nominate the lying sack of Peter Lane for your asshat of the week award.

  12. Where exactly was Fayetteville going to put this new 2,200 seat theatre? They can't even figure out the parking situation now.

  13. you smell something fishy?December 7, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    Why would Williams want to sue over this? He couldn't even win a suit over a sewer leak to a blind lady.
    I think his friends need him to sue so they can sell the property needed for the big expansion...
    just a thought.

  14. Anon 4:01
    I am over it but I disagree with the underlying assumption.
    THE ONLY NEED BEING FULFILLED HERE is the need to put Foundation money somewhere's.
    What on earth kind of event would attract 1% of the entire local population (excluding cattle) on any given night? Not to mention travel distance & the lovely B'ville traffic patterns.

  15. Anonymous 2:36 PM said: "The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce is definitely not in favor of the move to Bentonville, and was very involved in the Fayetteville proposal. "

    Not true (see below).


    Fayetteville, AR –December 7, 2010- The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors adopted the following resolution on Monday, December 6, 2010 in response to the Walton Arts Center’s expansion announcement.


    The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors supports the decision made by the Walton Arts Center to make the arts bigger and better in Fayetteville and the broader Northwest Arkansas area.


  16. NICE story today about the roots of the WAC.
    But with so much money & manipulation involved, my heart remains un-warmed.
    Any readers out there with a er, more complete memory of how construction of the WAC started--
    in the dead of night?
    city,UA, taxpayer-- partnership?