LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A special task force is close to revealing plans for War Memorial Park and Hindman golf course.

The plans look to re-purpose the public spaces for the 729 other days when Arkansas isn't focused on football in Little Rock's stadium complex.

"The city has had a chance to really kind of look at what other cities are doing and other states," said Kara Wilkins, a co-chair of the committee appointed by Mayor Frank Scott Jr. earlier this year while closing the two public golf courses. "We're asking, 'How can we make War Memorial a Central Park for Arkansas and for Little Rock?'"

Obvious examples are Grant Park in Chicago or Central Park in New York. At 200 acres, War Memorial is smaller, but the former golf course offers a wide open canvas.

"Such as an amphitheater here in the middle of the city," Wilkins said. "Also, maybe changing the old clubhouse to a restaurant."

That's something that could produce revenue and spur development without just handing it over to private developers or sports teams. Wilkins said so far, the committee has focused on attracting non-profit partnerships and foundations to pay for new park ideas. 

The city is also approaching how to develop an area with a stadium as an anchor from the opposite direction of other cities. 

Often, sports teams demand publicly financed stadiums and promise development opportunities as payback. The returns are often disappointing. 

In this case, the committee wants to take advantage of having the stadium already in place and plenty of wide open space.

"You're really going to see a group of collaborative people come together to think about how to make this a health and wellness district," Wilkins said, pointing to the sprawling UAMS campus to the east of the park and the potential ball fields that could go. "How can we make this something that all families can come to, all families can enjoy and everyone can reap the benefits of our 'Central Park?'"

The Little Rock Zoo has been working on a parallel track to explore expansion, now that the golf course has closed. Wilkins said they have worked with her committee to focus on moving south, toward a revitalized 12th Street corridor.

The task force will reveal its plans and proposals at a public meeting Dec. 4 at 3:30 p.m. at the Central at University Park.

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