War Memorial Stadium would be placed under the purview of the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department, and its subsidy from state general revenue would be reduced, if a new plan by Gov. Asa Hutchinson is passed into law next year.
It’s just simply a matter of managing state government and managing the agencies. I’ve been looking at it for a year and a half as to their budget and looking at it historically. Historically, War Memorial has operated without any general revenues and that changed in about 2006. I wanted to fully fund them the first year of the biennium and then start on the path to self-sufficiency.
Hutchinson called the plan a “government efficiency,” similar to placing the History Commission and Capitol Zoning District Commission under the Department of Heritage.
Gov. Hutchinson said:
From concerts and high school championships, to the ‘Miracle on Markham’, this venerable venue holds a special place with many Arkansans, especially our veterans, and has provided a lot of great memories along the way. In order to continue that success while maintaining the stadium’s viability for future generations, I am proposing that War Memorial Stadium be moved under the direction of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
“Tourism is the second leading industry in Arkansas, and War Memorial Stadium has proven to be an important part of that industry – both culturally and economically. This move makes sense on a number of levels, but above all else, it will provide much needed stability while allowing access to Parks and Tourism’s abundant resources, including staff and marketing.
His plan will have to be approved by the legislature in 2017. The plan calls for (eventually) cutting approximately $450,000 in state general revenue funding to the stadium, beginning in 2019.
War Memorial is, of course, associated with Arkansas Razorback football games, even though the stadium has other events there approximately 250 days a year. The University of Arkansas in recent years decided to switch from playing two home games a year at War Memorial to only one game. That means less revenue for War Memorial with one less game there a year, and the one opponent usually being about as skilled as the Sisters of the Poor croquet team.
The University of Arkansas has contracted with the War Memorial Commission to play one game there a year until 2018. After 2018, it’s a strong possibility they’ll move all games up to Fayetteville.
Hutchinson said he was going to hire “stadium consultants” to commission a study to review possible usages for War Memorial in the future. The economy may be sluggish nationwide, but it’s the roaring ‘20s here in the Natural State for state-contracted consultants.
You can watch Hutchinson’s press conference here.
Little Rock-area state lawmakers Rep. Andy Davis and Rep. Jim Sorvillo didn’t return calls for comment.