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Woody Bassett: Time to grow live music performances has come

Bud Walton Arena, stadium could be good venues

Music is good for the soul. For some, it's our common denominator. But it's enough if music simply entertains us, allowing one to forget about everything else, even if only for a bit.

Part of Fayetteville's unique character and vibe is the exceptional live music the town has to offer. Nothing, for example, is better than listening and dancing to the music of the Cate Brothers Band. Music of every kind is ingrained in the town's culture, a constant source of pure joy and happiness. Music is big business and big fun in Fayetteville and throughout the area. It has always been a given that people in Northwest Arkansas want all the live music they can get.

So the time has come to reach for the next level and for those who can make it happen to begin formulating a workable plan on how to stage a series of major concerts on the university campus in Fayetteville each year.

This idea has floated around Fayetteville for years but it has mostly been just wishful thinking. But with the rapid population growth in Northwest Arkansas, the ongoing expansion and improvements to Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the opening of the new Basketball Performance Center (Razorback basketball practice facility), the enormous popularity and success of the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion (the AMP) and the completion of the first-class expansion project at the Walton Arts Center, the time finally seems right to undertake a unified effort to convert wishful thinking into reality.

Some will still ask if holding major concerts on the university campus is feasible. That's a fair question, one which ultimately can be answered only by those with the power to act. But the time has arrived for those who are in a position of leadership and with the authority to make decisions to engage in a serious dialogue and comprehensive analysis to determine if staging major public concerts in Fayetteville is now a viable option. There will surely be obstacles to overcome but none of them should be insurmountable if there is a genuine will to make this happen.

Having a reasonable number of large indoor and outdoor concerts in Fayetteville each year would be embraced by Northwest Arkansas music-lovers, would directly benefit local businesses and the area's economy, would generate more sales tax revenue for area cities and would showcase the University of Arkansas.

Bud Walton Arena for indoor concerts and Reynolds Razorback Stadium for outdoor concerts would both be ideal venues, large enough to attract any touring band or musical artist in the country. Filling up Walton Arena and Razorback Stadium a few more times each year would also fill up hotels, restaurants and other places of business in Fayetteville and throughout Northwest Arkansas.

Fayetteville has a rich history with music. Some of America's finest musicians and bands have performed in Fayetteville venues through the years. It started in the 1950's and 60's, when the late Dayton Stratton brought in nationally-acclaimed rock-and-roll musicians to play at the Fayetteville clubs he owned or managed, artists such as Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Leon Russell, among others. Ronnie Hawkins and Levon Helm began their legendary music careers in these same clubs. In succeeding years, some of the country's best bands and musical artists have performed at Barnhill Arena and at other smaller local venues.

Whether it's at George's Majestic Lounge, the Walton Arts Center or some other spot, Fayetteville's Dickson Street for many years has been the center of gravity for live music in this area, and still is. And now music-lovers in this part of the state are indeed fortunate to also have the AMP, a terrific outdoor music venue in Rogers with a capacity of 7,000 people. It's a real gem for Northwest Arkansas, providing a sensational atmosphere to experience live music and featuring music of every type by some of America's finest performers.

The next logical and positive step in adding to the music scene and to the many cultural amenities we now enjoy in Northwest Arkansas is to offer major indoor and outdoor concerts on the university campus in Fayetteville. To do so will require a diligent and cooperative effort among the University of Arkansas, the city of Fayetteville and the Walton Arts Center. These are the key organizations that would be necessarily instrumental in bringing the desire for large concerts in this area to fruition and these are the entities that would have to do most of the heavy lifting.

Landing major concerts in Fayetteville is a challenging yet worthy goal, one that's attainable if people are committed to moving forward with it. The potential is limitless, and the possibilities and opportunities it would provide for Northwest Arkansas and the people who live here should be evident for all to see.

Commentary on 05/18/2017

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