The 1989 hit movie Field of Dreams boasts a memorable line that almost all Baby Boomers and Gen Xers can quote with fondness: “If you build it, they will come.” While there may be very few situations to which this phrase correctly applies, one can say with certainty that it absolutely describes the overwhelming success of Saline County’s very own Benton Event Center.
Built in 2013, the Event Center opened in October of that year and has maintained consistent bookings ever since. Located on the north side of I-30 next to Tinseltown Movie Theater, its convenient location attracts events of all sizes. According to Nikki Chumley, Executive Director of the facility, the Center “hosts events as small as wedding showers, baby showers, family reunions, and 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, and as large as the annual Glitz and Garland event benefiting the Benton Chamber of Commerce and Saline Memorial Hospital.”
Nikki continues, “We have done a good job of attracting recurring annual events, like CHI St Vincent’s quarterly leadership meetings, and we credit that to our attention to detail and excellent customer service. Our meeting space is perfect for trade shows, banquets, meetings, conventions and weddings. We have a pre-function area, outdoor plaza, green room, and a kitchen built to meet the needs of caterers. There is no other space like this in Saline County.”
Nikki also adds, “We have over 14,000 square feet of space that can be divided into five rooms, and each can have their own A/V set up. If arranged theater-style, we can accommodate 1,800 with theater-style seating or 800 for a seated banquet. Our convenient front-door parking and easy access to local hotels has made us an attractive option, which has allowed us to be one of the fastest growing event venues in Central Arkansas. Also, we allow our customers the freedom to choose their own catering based on the specific needs of the event. We also have tables, chairs, a stage and dance floor available.”
This year as the Benton Event Center celebrates five years of success, it is important to mention how rare it is for a city-owned facility to operate in the black at such a young age, and make $2M in payments to the bond that allowed the center to be built in the first place.
According to Nikki, “We work to save the taxpayers money every year by employing a lean staff of two full-time employees and several contract laborers. We strive to be excellent stewards of taxpayers’ property and run a very cost-effective operation. We feel we can hold our head high and feel proud of our fiscal health in the last five years.”
Gary James, President of the Benton Chamber of Commerce, shared what he believes is the biggest draw of the Event Center: “We offer a very nice, affordable place for people to hold events of all sizes, without having to leave Saline County or drive into Little Rock.”
According to Nikki, on average, the Benton Event Center holds 20-30 events per month, some of those events lasting more than one day. An extraordinarily busy season will see the Event Center holding as many as six events in one day.
When asked what he hopes to see in the next five years of the Benton Event Center, Gary replied, “Continued growth, and bringing people outside of Saline County in to Benton for their events.
“When all is said and done, we can thank the people of Saline County for the resounding success of the Event Center. They have consistently planned their events there, and plan on coming back year after year for their recurring events. That is the kind of loyalty it takes to see success.
We built the Benton Event Center using bonds and worked hard to promote it, and in the end it was our Saline County residents that made this what it is today,” shares Gary. “They have supported the Event Center from the very beginning.” He also adds that, “It’s a tremendous honor that the City of Benton and the Benton Advertising and Promotion Commission chose the Benton Chamber of Commerce to run the Event Center. It is a great partnership and should be given credit for the success of the first five years.”
In a beautiful and rare occurrence when life imitates art, the Benton Event Center’s success reflects that iconic line from Field of Dreams. The locals have rallied around their pristine events center, kept it booked, and planned to hold future events there. The sound fiscal management has allowed portions of the bond to be repaid, and the Event Center has advance bookings as far out as 2020. The future is bright for Benton, and the Event Center proves that if you build it, they really will come.