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— A longplanned outdoor amphitheater will be built next year between Tontitown and Siloam Springs, the operations manager said Friday.

Greg Smith first proposed building the 16,000-capacity concert and event venue on his 858-acre farm off Logan Cave Road in rural Benton County in 2001.

The Osage Creek Performing Arts Center is out for bid now, with construction slated to begin next spring and completion next fall, said Bert Piraino, operations manager for Osage Creek Development Partnership. The $20 million project is financed by a private investor Piraino declined to name.

“The idea kind of fell by the wayside for reasons not directly related to the amphitheater, but we’re back on track now,” Piraino said.

Benton County planners approved the project in 2004, and again in 2008 when it was resubmitted. The site, in the unincorporated Logan community just north of U.S. 412, has been in Smith’s family for more than a century, and is used as pasture and hay fields.

The center is intended to bring in concerts, other arts performances, crafts fairs and corporate events, Piraino said.

“We’ve got to have something bigger than the Walton Arts Center, because they can’t handle a major event,” he said. “Ideally, we could convince Wal-Mart to hold their annual meeting there.”

There’s no definitive data to determine whether the region could support a concert venue of that size, said Jeff Hawkins, director of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.

“It’s a market-driven decision, and they apparently see enough of a market in the area,” Hawkins said. “There are a lot of factors to consider, and most of them aren’t the same ones we look at in terms of overall development.”

The only other large concert venue in the region is Mulberry Mountain, a 650-acre site in Franklin County that hosts several festivals each year.

The Osage Creek plan calls for festival-style camping, although onenight shows and weekly performances are also planned, Piraino said.

The venue could employ several hundred full-time workers, he said.

He wouldn’t comment on messages posted to the venue’s Facebook site that jam band Phish may be the first concert when the center opens next year.

Tour dates for Phish couldn’t be found beyond a four-night run in Miami

News, Pages 9 on 12/09/2009

Print Headline: Amphitheater coming to area

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