BY LEANN DILBECK –
Construction on RMCC’s new $5.2 million Ouachita Center is progressing well and on-time. The largest capital improvement project in RMCC’s history, it is the third phase in a major renovation/expansion that is slated to be completed by Fall 2014. The addition of the new cultural arts center will not only enhance the campus but has many local officials anxious for its completion and the anticipated positive economic impact it is expected to bring to the entire region.
“Mena doesn’t have anything like this so it’s great that we’re getting this. If you get more things going on in Mena, more things will happen,” said Mena Mayor George McKee. “This is going to be great for our community because with all of the room, we can have more activities.”
ARCO Chair Gar Eisele explained that the college researched other communities who have built similar facilities and, many times, it has served as a catalyst to positive economic progress. “Considering Mena’s geographic location, we are expecting a significant economic boost that will not only impact Mena, but the entire region.” Eisele also serves as the RMCC Board of Trustees Chair.
RMCC President Phillip Wilson added that the name “Ouachita Center” was strategically selected because it is RMCC’s goal that the building will facilitate multiple community needs and events along with positioning the area to host conferences and larger regional meetings. Wilson added, “The addition of the Ouachita Center should have significant impacts on Polk, Scott, and Montgomery counties. We will now a community facility that will be able to handle larger scale civic, governmental, and educational activities that we currently are not able to. Tourist and economic activities should be increased in our region because of this project.”
The Ouachita Center Legacy Campaign, a fundraising effort sponsored by the RMCC Foundation, provides an opportunity for the public to invest into regional economic growth that the Ouachita Center is expected to generate. Tammy Young, Director of Development and Community Relations, explained that there are naming opportunities, both interior and exterior, as the plan also includes an outdoor patio area equipped to handle outdoor movies, socials, etc. The RMCC Foundation is a recognized 501c3 organization. Young stated, “Rich Mountain Community College is committed to organizations, schools, businesses, and the community to encourage the creation, appreciation, and pursuit of mutual goals and richer cultural experiences. The Ouachita Center is the premier place to facilitate such events and activities that include the celebration of community traditions and engagement in new experiences.”
The massive 8,000 s.f. Dick and Frances Carver Grand Hall can be sub-divided with the use of retractable walls that can be reconfigured to accommodate smaller meetings of 30-35 people. The entire space can accommodate up to 900 people and with dining events, may seat 350-400 comfortably. The area also features a warming kitchen that will be of great benefit to caterers in serving events.
The space does not include a stage but features retractable theater style seating designed for small scale production or meetings, conferences, events, weddings, etc. It also features 2-large screen monitors, and a massive roll-up door large enough to bring in vehicles, etc. making it ideal for trade shows etc. Reservation packets are being assembled at this time and are expected to be made available to the public later this summer.
The entrance hall will include collections of arts, not just local, but traveling displays that may be made available to the College.
Joe Rogers from SAIC, a former Mena resident and MHS graduate, architecturally designed the building with interesting angles and elements that tie in with the rest of the campus, including the Wennberg wall which is incorporated throughout the building. Nabholz Construction Services is the general contractor.
The new Ouachita Center has progressed from a year- long concept to construction and is soon to be a reality for an area that is hungry for economic growth. RMCC Foundation Chair David Alley said, “The RMCC Foundation envisions completion of the Ouachita Center as an important step forward for RMCC and for the community. It will be a key for more partnerships between the college and area businesses and civic organizations, and will provide a facility to open new doors for education and cultural opportunities in our area.”
For more information about the Ouachita Center and Legacy Campaign, contact Tammy Young at (479) 394-7622, x. 1220, firstname.lastname@example.org .