THV11 in Your Town: Conway, Arkansas

Taking an in-depth look at Arkansas' fastest growing large city

Stories written and shot by Alyssa Raymond, Meredith Mitchell, Mary Dunleavy, and the THV11 Staff. Digitally produced by Amy Geswein and Jessica Johnson.

CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) – The THV11 crew was live at Simon Park in Conway - Arkansas' fastest growing large city, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, July 18. To help celebrate, Yarnell's gave away free ice cream and local artists played a live concert. We had a lot of fun out there and the weather, although a little rainy, was wonderful. (Mobile users visit this link for the full story: http://on.kthv.com/1mpyu6M)

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City of Colleges

More than 14,000 of the city's residents are students in higher education

All the local businesses and big corporations that set up their headquarters here are contributing to Conway's growth, but the city's three universities is one of the biggest factors.

About 60,000 people live in Conway, and more than 14,000 of them are students in higher education.

At Hendrix College, student Ruthie Daniel flipped through pictures taken well before her time. Even though she wasn't there, the photos meant something to her.

"My dad went to a different school every single year and switched a lot of semesters, so this is the one he stayed at the longest and graduated from," she said.

Daniel decided to follow in his footsteps. She'll be a junior at Hendrix College.

"[UCA] started as a teachers' college all those years ago and now we have that big campus feel," explained Christina Madsen, an employee at University of Central Arkansas. "You wouldn't expect to find three colleges in a city the size of Conway and yet here we are. They're not only existing, they're growing and flourishing."

In another area of the city, Central Baptist College has grown from about two dozen students to more than 800.

"It's just much more of a player than it ever has been," added Central Baptist College President Terry Kimbrow, went to school there and never left. "At one time people really recognized two colleges in Conway. They often forgot about us. Obviously with the growth, we're adding to the economy."

If you drive to Conway from Little Rock on I-40 -- you might have noticed a "City of Colleges" landmark on your right, before the Dave Ward exit. Buried in the ground there are three time capsules -- one from UCA, Central Baptist, and Hendrix.Whether it's Central Baptist, UCA, or Hendrix, students are flocking to Conway, and they're staying.

New Airport

$30M project nears completion

Conway's new airport has been a long time coming. Since it was constructed in the late 1930s, the original airstrip has been swallowed by the city.

As Conway continues to grow, more spaces and upgrades are needed to accommodate the expanding population. As part of that, a new airport is under construction right now.

City officials say the $30 million project will attract corporate customers and bring economic development to Conway; it will also solve serious safety issues at the current airport.

Conway's new airport has been a long time coming. Since the first was constructed in the late 1930s, the original airstrip has been swallowed by the city, making it impossible to expand.

"Over time as the city's grown, aircraft have grown. They need more room; they need more runway," explained Josh Zylks, manager of the new Conway Airport. He said the new location in the Lollie Bottoms will lift safety concerns pilots have coming into Conway. "Unfortunately, the airport has experienced a couple of accidents. People are having plane crashes because the runways were too short."

Conway's existing airport has seen three fatal accidents since 1990. The airport's shortcomings were highlighted in 2007 when a plane crashed into a home near the airport, killing the pilot and a woman in the home. In 2012, another pilot died after his engine failed. Now, future pilots taking off and landing will have nothing on the ground to hit.

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"It's flat; it's very open. There's no trees, there's no buildings, [and] there's no kind of obstructions in the way," Zylks added. In addition to a longer runaway, a 1,000-foot safety area will pad either end. The new Cantrell Field will also be equipped with the newest technology. "The new GPS satellite based approaches for days like today when the weather is hazy—it's misty, the clouds are down—they will be able to come in on their instruments and land."

The new airport will open September 1, 2014.

New Football Program

Hendrix College welcomes football back to school

A new football program came to Conway last year, and since then, Hendrix College have been building from the ground up.

Reed Heim, defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach at Hendrix, is the guy who probably spends most of the time with the team and knows them best because he isn't coaching defense. He's either in the weight room or training with them.

He stopped by THV11 in Your Town to talk to Mary Dunleavv about the program, and how it's progressing. Check out his interview in the video above.

Preston Palmer Studios

Music in the community

We enjoyed having folks from Preston Palmer Studios on THV11 while we visited Conway!

Preston Palmer, the owner of the studio has been teaching music and repairing guitars for the past 16 years. He wanted to branch off from what he'd been doing originally and open his own studio that was committed to teaching music to all ages, and providing the area with a quality guitar repair facility.

They opened their doors in 2012 and now have around 200 students enrolled in classes with 18 instructors teaching a wide range of instruments. The teaching styles range from classical to Rock n' Roll. If you think you think you might be too old to begin learning, think again. People of all ages are enrolled.

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Conway's THV11 In Your Town On Social Media

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Thanks for having us, Conway!