The city of Little Rock last week extended the deadline for submitting bids on leasing 18 acres of War Memorial Park for a “golf entertainment venue,” meaning a Topgolf or similar sports bar with illuminated driving range surrounded by 100-foot-plus fences, until Aug. 5.

The deadline had been Wednesday, July 22.

Advertisement

The notice of the extension doesn’t mention a reason for the delay. I’ve inquired, but answers are sometimes slow in coming from Little Rock City Hall.

The extension made a couple of small changes in the original request for proposals including that title to the leased property “shall” be retained by the city.

Advertisement

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has met with Topgolf about luring the Texas-based chain to the city, but his administration claims the request could draw bids from similar operators.

The idea, bid by the city without notice to the City Board, is to turn  20 percent of the former city golf course that Scott closed into a sports bar with driving range. This idea was not among the uses envisioned in a long study of the property. The proposal has drawn criticism from members of the parks advisory task force, the Parks and Recreation Commission, members of the City Board and neighbors and park users. Real estate developers like the idea. They’ve long eyed the park for commercial development. Topgolf has its fans, too, particularly among the rising professional class that Scott is wooing for re-election.

Advertisement

Topgolf is welcome in Little Rock. But the question is whether it is so welcome as to be pre-selected by the mayor for a piece of prime parkland that is better used mostly for free than leased to private business on a deal it couldn’t get in the free market. Topgolf is free to compete as other businesses must. That’s how it worked in Rogers. Topgolf leased private property.

PS: I see a timely addition to this discussion, a plea from The Observer to ditch the Topgolf idea.

I’d heard this was in the works. Got a note about it with this added thought about War Memorial:

I want to pitch a tent on the old putting green behind that huge stand of old-growth pines near University Ave. and live there for a month. There’s no other place like it in this town.

Behold it now. Imagine instead yuppies guzzling in a sports bar.

Advertisement