For many years, Bentonville’s Advertising and Promotions Commission provided residents and tourists with an outdoor skating experience. During the holiday season, a temporary ice rink was constructed, attracting visitors to the Bentonville’s historic downtown. Kalene Griffith, the President of Bentonville’s Convention and Visitors Bureau when describing the temporary ice rink said, “the old ice rink was very popular in our community, but we always knew it had the potential to become so much more than just a temporary facility.”
In 2008, Griffith and her Board of Directors turned to City of Bentonville Officials and presented plans for a permanent facility. The task seemed simple, to develop a year round facility that could enhance the Downtown Bentonville experience for both visitors and residents. Together, the City and the A&P Commission acquired land that will serve as the connection from the new Crystal Bridges Museum to the historic Downtown Bentonville Square
The staffs from Bentonville Parks and Recreation and the Bentonville Convention and Visitors Bureau worked together for many months designing a facility that will not only provide an ice rink, but something people could use for twelve months of the year. The final design includes an interactive water feature that will allow patrons to have an aquatic recreation element during the warm weather months. The plaza will feature 160 jets that can be designed to create water patterns that can “dance” to music or the patterns can be set to be unpredictable. During the winter, the facility comes back to its original intent – an outdoor ice skating rink.
In November, the facility was appropriately named Ernest G. Lawrence Plaza, after the late Mayor of Bentonville. Bentonville City Council Member Chris Sooter said, “naming this facility after Ernie Lawrence was the right thing for our City. Mayor Lawrence was a forward thinking Mayor who made many decisions while in office that still benefits us today. The collaboration between the City and the Advertising and Promotions Commission is something that would have made Ernie Lawrence proud.”
The final cost of the facility was 1.5 million dollars. After bids were received, collaboration continued between the two groups, with the A&P paying just over a million dollars on the project and the City paying for the rest of the expenses. After completion, Lawrence Plaza will be operated by the City of Bentonville’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Construction began in January. And if Mayor Bob McCaslin, the Bentonville City Council and the Advertising and Promotions Commission have their way, the residents and visitors will be skating this holiday season.