One of our top priorities to #UniteLR is improving quality of life and place. Enhancing our experiences and amenities in War Memorial Park and Hindman park remains a major focus for this administration, even during this global pandemic. We are excited about the recommendations 1/ pic.twitter.com/ZUpmfQtdBO
— Frank Scott, Jr. (@FrankScottJr) August 6, 2020
The mayor’s office has given me no response to a lack of bids yesterday for the proposal his administration put out to lease 18 acres of War Memorial Park for a “golf entertainment” venue, a description that matches the Topgolf chain he’s tried to lure to the city.
But he posted this on Twitter today in response. He renews his support for the park study on use of the property that had a lot of good ideas — none of them a golf entertainment venue — for War Memorial and Hindman Park, where he closed golf courses and freed acreage for other uses.
He said, “we may not issue another bid.” Which isn’t to say he will NOT issue another bid.
You can’t argue with arithmetic. Park improvements take money. The city lacks it, even more so during the pandemic. Some small commercial ventures are inevitable in the park — a small restaurant in the former golf shop at War Memorial for example. Bicycle rentals, maybe.
My problem with seeing Topgolf, or its functional equivalent, as a money source (and only that particular use, no others, as first in line) was that it meant giving up prime parkland to heavy commercial use. It would most likely be at a cut-rate for a company against what it would have to pay in the private market. Welcome Topgolf or similar to Little Rock, by all means. But let them operate in the free market.
Yes, the city needs more revenue. But parks shouldn’t be viewed as pay-as-you-go operations and the sole source of revenue for improvements. They’ve never been a moneymaker. They’re a worthy civic amenity. We should support them broadly, as we do many other city endeavors that don’t pay their own way.
There are private means of supporting parks that don’t require excessive commercialization. The stadium sold naming rights. Might there be a civic-minded organization that would like its name on a small amphitheater or new soccer fields? Or how about a medical institution-underwritten War Memorial version of the Medical Mile fitness path on the riverfront? Or maybe the Walton grandsons would like to send a tad of Walton Foundation billions to Little Rock for something besides charter schools. They could put a great bike feature in War Memorial or Hindman Park.