Springdale planners OK design plan for University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences orthopedic and sports management center

This rendering shows the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences orthopedic and sports medicine center to be built in Springdale. 
(Courtesy Image/Marlon Blackwell Architects)
This rendering shows the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences orthopedic and sports medicine center to be built in Springdale. (Courtesy Image/Marlon Blackwell Architects)

SPRINGDALE -- The Planning Commission on Tuesday accepted unanimously the large-scale development plan for the Northwest Arkansas Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The 115,000-square-foot facility will sit between Arkansas Children's Northwest and the Blue Cross Blue Shield building in the city's ballpark district, which is quickly becoming known as Springdale's "care corridor."

Officials hope to break ground on the facility this summer and open in 2025, said Amy Wenger, vice chancellor for the medical school's Fayetteville campus.

The facility will serve as an outpatient clinic, with clinical space and a surgery center for orthopedic and sports medicine, she said.

The University of Arkansas in March 2021 announced an agreement for UAMS to provide daily medical coverage for the more than 465 athletes in the athletic program.

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees in September 2021 approved a $109.6 million bond issue to cover costs associated with the planned center near Interstate 49 in Springdale.

The center will include areas for surgery, recovery and imaging, and a performance area will be developed as a gym for physical therapy and injury recovery, whether pre- or post-surgery, Wenger said.

The two-story building has been designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects to flow along the natural lay of the land, with its highest point on the northwest side of the parcel descending to the southeast side.

"It will look like part of the neighborhood," Wenger said.

Justin Hershberger, senior associate and studio director for the architecture firm, described the design as a high-quality facility that would become iconic for Springdale and Northwest Arkansas.

Patients will enter the site from Watkins Avenue on the north and follow a winding drive through an existing meadow to the patient entrance on the southwest.

The meadow will remain natural but hold geothermal features underneath that will aid in climate control of the building, Hershberger said. A pond on the land will be upgraded to provide drainage retention.

The parking lot rows will "roll down the meadow" to the entrance of the hospital, Hershberger said.

"The parking is not traditional," he said. "We're calling it 'parking trays' for now. That's just the way the land falls."

The 14-foot trays will include three times the city's landscaping requirements and two times the requirement for trees, he said.

The building will have two levels, with the lower level built into the side of the hill, Hershberger continued.

Three portals on the roof line will provide natural light to two large patient courtyard areas.

Hershberger compared it to Disney facilities, with doctors and staff "off stage," working and traveling around the courtyards.

Patsy Christie, director of the city's Planning Department, pushed Hershberger to add a 5-foot sidewalk to at least one side of the driveway from Watkins Avenue to the patient entrance. The city's design standards require features to add walkability to projects.

The Planning Commission also granted the hospital a waiver for sidewalks and gutters along Watkins Avenue. The city will complete the improvements as a project with 2018 bond money.

"It's designed. It's funded. We're ready to build it," said Katie Hollingshead, a senior project manager with the city's Engineering Department.

The medical school currently has seven physicians based in Northwest Arkansas who will serve patients from the orthopedic center, Wenger said.

They are fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and primary care sports medicine physicians, she continued.

The center also will employ a complete complement of nurses, therapists and technicians, Wenger said.

The center will provide training through the various medical career programs in the Northwest Arkansas region, she added.

There will be approximately 155 employees in the new facility, according to Andrea Peel, a spokesperson for the hospital. This will be an increase from approximately 35 employees currently in the hospital's orthopedic and sports medicine clinics.

"This will be a premiere development and a big addition to Springdale and our growing medical sector," said Mayor Doug Sprouse. "It will be prominent in the overlay district."

"Any level of medical care we can add to keep our people from going out of the area for medical care is a good thing," said council member Mark Fougerousse.

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