City Director Kathy Webb makes a good point by providing a link to the recommendations on repurposing War Memorial Park after the closure of the golf course, now targeted by Mayor Frank Scott Jr. for partial use by Topgolf or similar. (It’s a pricey sports bar with a lighted driving range that would require ugly 140-foot fences where people from nearby low-income neighborhoods can currently roam free to play and picnic.)
City Director Capi Peck, also opposed to turning over 18 acres of park (at whatever the lease deal for 99 years) to a private enterprise chosen by the mayor, sought comments on two separate Facebook accounts over the weekend. About 600 responded, overwhelmingly in the negative. There ARE many admirers of Topgolf, just not on city parkland.
Most of the support I’ve seen has come from real estate developers, including at least one historically well-connected firm that reportedly has an interest in the deal.
Peck got 350 more comments at this separate Facebook link.
I have an FOI request pending for internal communications about this development, which apparently was an open secret in the development community as an aim of the mayor. He didn’t share his thoughts with the City Board, the Parks and Recreation Commission or the advisory group that studied new uses for War Memorial Park. News leaked out late last week.
Clarification: Scott has made clear for months his interest in luring to Topgolf to Little Rock. In an interview with KARK, he talked about meeting with Topgolf, so presumably there’s some record of that, though the mayor’s office said last week the bids to be opened July 22 aren’t tailored for Topgolf. What he did NOT mention was the plan to let them use 18 acres of War Memorial Park.
The city attorney says this idea, whoever wins the bidding July 22, must be approved by the City Board of Directors. That will take six votes from the 10 members, or at least five with a tie-breaker from the mayor. I don’t seem them currently. But it says a lot about the mayor’s style that there’s no evidence of coalition-building. He’s determined to be a strong mayor. Nothing wrong with that. But vote realities are vote realities.