BENTONVILLE -- Ground was broken Wednesday for the largest facility for animals in the region, according to its founders.
The Best Friends Pet Resource Center will serve an estimated 13,000 dogs and cats each year when opened, according to a news release.
A few hundred people showed up in a grassy area off Melissa Drive, behind Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy, for the groundbreaking.
The center will be about 20,000 square feet on 6 acres to be owned by Best Friends, according to the news release. The footprint of the center was marked off, and people were able to take tours Wednesday.
The estimated cost of the center is $14.5 million, according to the release. The fundraising goal is $17.5 million, which includes the donation of land and at least one year of operating costs. About 90% of the money has been raised, according to information from Wednesday's presentation.
The projected opening date is summer 2022, according to the release.
"The Best Friends Pet Resource Center embodies a whole new era of community-supported animal sheltering," Julie Castle, Best Friends Animal Society CEO, said in the release. "This isn't just a new building; this is going to change society. It is going to change the history of how we think about companion animals."
Castle joined the meeting via Zoom and hailed the Northwest Arkansas venture, saying it will be the first of its kind and will serve as a model for other shelters across the country. The center is based on a concept called community-supported sheltering, where community members, government leaders and shelters play a role in animal welfare, rather than just the shelter alone, the release stated.
It will focus on services to prevent pets from entering municipal shelters. More specifically, services will include a medical clinic, transportation of homeless pets to communities where they are more likely to be adopted, resources and support for struggling owners to help pets stay in homes, foster care support for pets, and an educational space, according to the release. The center will also serve as the Northwest Arkansas Partnership for Animal Welfare headquarters.
The Walton Family Foundation provided an $892,500 grant for architectural design and engineering of the center, according to a December 2019 release that announced plans for the center.
RA-DA is the architect, HFA is the engineering firm and Baldwin & Shell Construction is the general contractor.
Best Friends has been working on the ground in Northwest Arkansas for three years and leads the NWA PAW coalition. To learn more, visit: bestfriends.org/nwa.