North Little Rock developers and officials announced a new $28 million entertainment complex on Friday that will include a driving range, restaurants, shops, bars and bowling alley.
People filled the lobby of North Little Rock City Hall for the much-anticipated announcement that the city will land a new “family-friendly” entertainment complex that will become a major draw in central Arkansas during its opening in the last quarter of 2023.
The project will be built on the site of the now closed Wild River Country Water Park on Crystal Hill Road.
“This is something, as I said, not just for North Little Rock but for Maumelle, West Little Rock, all of central Arkansas,” North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick said. “When we bring people here, now they will have something else [to do] and, yes, go spend their money.”
The new development will be dubbed Maly’s Entertainment Area, after the Conway-based developer – the Maly Group – leading the effort. Maly Group owner Dr James Thomas said he expects his project to become a new model of entertainment.
“As a child, you were probably hanging out in a mall,” said Thomas, who is also a cardiologist at Conway. “There are no more malls now, so kids and everyone else needs a place to be entertained.”
The anchor of the new entertainment complex will be a golf and dining complex called “T-Time”, similar to Top Golf, the driving range chain. The complex will also include a virtual arcade, restaurants, specialty shops and eventually a hotel and multi-family homes.
The project is estimated at $28 million, which includes plans for the driving range and bowling alley, Thomas said.
Thomas said he landed on a site in North Little Rock while researching places in the area, eyeing a spot west of Little Rock. But with Wild River Country shutting down during the pandemic, the land in North Little Rock became available.
“His [got] easy access to highways with very good visibility both from [Interstate] 40 and [Interstate] 430,” Thomas said.
After finding the location, the Maly Group approached the town of North Little Rock with their plan. Hartwick and North Little Rock development manager Robert Birch said he was happy with the plan, as it is expected to create around 200 jobs.
“One thing we miss is that we don’t have these part-time jobs that students can work,” Birch said.
Hartwick, who was carrying a golf club at Friday’s event at Town Hall, couldn’t hide his delight at the announcement, stepping in to hug Thomas, after Thomas said the project would pay off $10 million to the city per year, including tax revenue.
Announcing the project was made easier because the Maly Group did not ask the city for money or tax breaks, Hartwick and Birch said. However, at the press conference, Thomas said he wanted a four-lane road connecting his development to I-40.
When asked what made North Little Rock attractive for a developer as opposed to Little Rock, Hartwick replied “besides the mayor”, jokingly referring to Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
For many, the news of an upcoming high-tech driving range and sports bar in central Arkansas was welcome news. In 2020, Little Rock officials attempted to get Top Golf to open a location in War Memorial Park, but ultimately no action was taken.
The North Little Rock site will be similar to Top Golf, but not affiliated with the chain and will be dubbed “T-Time”. Thomas said he considered trying to bring Top Golf to central Arkansas, but decided to back out of working with the chain.
“Oh my God, we never thought we would get such a response,” Thomas said. “We just wanted to showcase it, so Top Golf [doesn’t] announce in Little Rock.”
Thomas said he consulted Kansas City-based T-Shotz, a golf-focused entertainment and dining venue when considering his plans for North Little Rock. A previous report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette incorrectly reported that T-Shotz would anchor the new development at North Little Rock.