Gov. Asa Hutchinson apparently felt the burn from KARK’s exclusive Tuesday night on his plans to cut state support of War Memorial Stadium in half beginning July 1, 2018. With the loss of Razorback football revenue, the stadium won’t have enough state money to pay its maintenance bills.
The governor’s apparent abandonment of the stadium presented such a negative picture that the governor made himself available by phone from China to talk to the Democrat-Gazette’s Michael Wickline.
The governor insisted he was a big fan of War Memorial, a state facility, and noted the stadium would get one more year at the current budget level before the ax falls.
The Republican governor also is recommending “a feasibility study be conducted to provide a comprehensive assessment of the future uses of the stadium and a road map for financial sustainability,” according to budget records.
Hutchinson said Wednesday that his goal is for War Memorial Stadium to move to a self-sustaining model, and his desire is for this “great asset” to have “more support — not less support.”
I’ll bet at nickel, maybe even a dime, that the plan Hutchinson ultimately issues is similar to one Republican insider Rex Nelson has already proposed in a D-G column. Reduce seating in the stadium, add a running track and make other changes in the city’s surrounding park, including construction of an indoor facility, geared to making it a center for youth sports.
Nelson has also thoughtfully provided a financing plan that I KNOW the governor will love — city taxpayers would pay for it with an additional city sales tax. I won’t hold my breath for any money from state government for a youth sports facility in Little Rock — not with Medicaid therapy services for kids being cut so that Asa can lavish another income tax cut on the rich. The state couldn’t possibly afford to pay for soccer fields or a basketball court, at least not in reliably Democratic Pulaski County.
Asa’s shaft of War Memorial is all the more remarkable given that the Stadium Commission chairman is Little Rock lawyer Kevin Crass, who’s labored long and hard for Republican causes in Arkansas. He told the D-G he was disappointed with the proposal, but said he hoped to work with the governor and legislature on a plan for continuing “viability.”
If “viability” means an Asa scheme with a bill for Little Rock taxpayers attached, don’t look for a celebratory parade to form.
UPDATE: The War Memorial Stadium budget came before the legislative council this morning and an effort was made to approve a motion to restore full funding to the agency. I’m hoping for more details, but state Rep. David Meeks said on Twitter that the substitute motion failed due to lack of quorum. It will be up for consideration again Tuesday.