Stage improvements, more parking, more events and generating more direct revenue for Fort Smith are on the Parks and Recreation Department's radar for how to improve the Kelley Park stage and amphitheater on the riverfront.
"Considering that we have 100 parking spaces and we have 3,000 people downtown — and let's just say that's for a small concert — that's a problem," Parks and Recreation Director Doug Reinert said at the Board of Directors' study session Tuesday.
Reinert said the design of the stage is outdated and the size of the stage is not large enough for big performers and outdated.
The city charges vendors $1,000 to rent the park for a day and allows nonprofit organizations to use it for free.
"We give that venue to them for free. They bring in 3,000 people, and 3,000 people are staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants generating more revenue," Reinert said.
Some of the ways to make the improvements happen are to seek out private partnerships, sponsors, contributors and change how the city does rentals and reservations, he said.
Vice Mayor and At-large Director Kevin Settle said there is no reason Kelley Park cannot be something similar to the Arkansas Music Pavillion (AMP) in Rogers.
"To me, we need to take it big," Settle said.
The city needs to start looking into the costs to turn it into a first-rate concert venue, he said.
"There's no reason why in the future we couldn't partner with the AMP and do a dual concert series," Settle said.
City Administrator Carl Geffken said that ideally, the city would lease the facility to someone who would invest in it and help attract artists.