The Little Rock purchasing division had its scheduled bid-opening today on a request for proposals to lease 18 acres of War Memorial Park for a “golf entertainment” venue.
It got none. When the bid opening was held, purchasing officials announced no written proposals had been received but said there was one response online from Renaissance Roofing.
Officials said the proposal would be released later after a review to see if it was responsive to the request.
A city spokesman said shortly afterward that Renaissance Roofing is a company that routinely receives bid notices and it had merely responded in this case, “Not interested.”
I’m seeking a response from the administration on the development.
The RFP, which arose last month without prior notice from Mayor Frank Scott Jr., seemed tailored to Topgolf, a national chain of sports bars with lighted driving ranges. Scott has talked about trying to attract the company to Little Rock.
The proposal drew criticism for use of War Memorial Park’s former golf course, now green space, for a commercial facility with high fences, late-night lighting and extensive parking. A study group had developed a park plan with more conventional park uses. Scott and his supporters described Topgolf as an economic development opportunity that could produce income for the support of parks in a city strapped for money. Critics have said Topgolf is welcome to Little Rock, but not in a deal using city parkland. In other cities, Topgolf has sought direct subsidies, such as rebates from sales taxes and other incentives.
Scott told the City Board recently that the Parks and Recreation Commission, which has not been allowed to meet since March, would consider a lease proposal along with the parks advisory task force before it went to the City Board for consideration. At the Board, a lease of the land would have faced controversy, with several directors already in opposition.
Director Capi Peck, the liaison to Parks and Recreation, was among the first to oppose the idea She commented:
“I’m not surprised that there were no responses to the RFP on War Memorial.
“I would think that Top Golf or a Top Golf-like entity would’ve been scared away because of the public outcry and comments from city directors who would have ultimately made the decision about one of our most popular city parks.
In addition, I am certain that the parks and recreation commission would never have given this a thumbs up.
“I have spoken to most of the commissioners, all who opposed any sort of lease of public parkland space to a commercial entity.”