FORT SMITH, Ark. (TB&P) — Discussion of the River Valley Sports Complex became heated as Fort Smith city directors discuss selling the property during a Fort Smith City Directors study session Tuesday (Nov. 26).
“When it was clear the River Valley Sports Complex project was not going to be completed, we developed a two-step play for the property. The first step was to issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) to solicit interest to develop the property, and if the first step was not successful, the City would appraise the property and put it up for sale via competitive bidding in order to recoup some of the costs associated with RVSC,” City Administrator Carl Geffken said in memo to the board.
Former Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, and Fort Smith businessman Lee Webb partnered to build the RVSC in 2012, and in 2014 they convinced the city of Fort Smith to invest $1.6 million into the project. The project was to be a tournament-quality softball complex with eight softball fields, two concession stands and associated parking. It was to “economically benefit the entire region.”
Acting on the recommendation of Geffken, the Fort Smith Board of Directors nixed the sports complex plan effective Jan. 31, 2017, after more than two years of delays on the project. In 2017, several lawsuits were filed by the city and subcontractors over the unfinished RVSC, and the FBI investigated Files for possible wire fraud and money laundering related to use of about $27,000 in state General Improvement Fund grant money for the sports complex. The city spent $1.8 million on the project and incurred about $100,000 to $200,000 in legal fees associated with the project.
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