FORT SMITH (KFSM) —The historic Sparks New Theatre in Fort Smith will soon be transformed into a modern performance theater with an attached performing arts and education campus.
64.6 Downtown made the announcement on Monday, March 25.
Located at 9 North 10th Street in the historic downtown district, the New Theatre was once the center of entertainment for the community.
64.6 Downtown is behind the project and says, "The transformation of this vacant building provides a regional hub for performance arts ushering theatre, music and dance into a cultural revival the community has been experiencing over the last few years."
Renovations to the New Theatre will allow seating for 600+, a two-story gallery entry for gathering before and after performances, state of the art lighting and new sound and projection equipment.
The buildings adjacent to the theater, along with the former Landmark Sign buildings will provide office, meeting and rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms, laundry facilities, set construction and storage spaces plus Green Rooms for visiting artists.
The arts and education center will have access to the back of the main stage of the New Theatre. The campus will be 26,000 sq. ft once completed.
Phase one of the project began in January 2019. The next steps include the continued demolition of interior spaces in the theater, removing and replacing the alley exterior fire escapes. New construction is set to begin in October of 2019.
The downtown project is set to be completed by January of 2021.
64.6 Downtown says the New Theatre renovations will become a reality thanks to financial support of the Windgate Charitable Foundation, the Griffin Family Charitable Trust, Dwight Curry, the Board of the Young Actors Guild and other local citizens.
The Sparks New Theatre came to Fort Smith when George Taylor Sparks, a well-traveled banker, was inspired by the New Amsterdam Theatre on a trip to New York in 1903. Once returning to Fort Smith, Sparks made it his mission to create a theater in downtown that could accommodate the space and needs of a New York production. Sparks didn't live to see it the theater's completion, the work he began finished in 1911.
In the late 1930s, the New Theatre was turned into a Malco operated movie theater before falling into disrepair in the 1980s. The theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
64.6 Downtown is a nonprofit founded in 2015 by Fort Smith entrepreneur Steve Clark in hopes of creating vibrant spaces in downtown Fort Smith that would drive economic development.