Bike event to highlight Bentonville center's expansion plans

BENTONVILLE -- Residents can get a peek at what the future Helen R. Walton Children's Enrichment Center and its Early Childhood Initiatives Center will look like during its Bike 2 the Future event Saturday.

Officials announced the $14.3 million move and expansion to Northeast J Street in front of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in September.

Event Schedule

• 9 a.m.: Registration and bike decorating at Lawrence Plaza and Amazeum.

• 10 a.m.: 1-mile and .3-mile guided bike rides from the respective locations to the hay field begins.

• 10:15 to 11:45 a.m.: Live entertainment, family activities, food trucks and the unveiling of building renderings.

Source: Staff report

Web Watch

More information about the Early Childhood Initiatives Center capital campaign can be found online at….

Source: Staff report

They are inviting the public to bike to the location to learn more about the building and how it will enhance the center's efforts to improve the quality of early childhood programs in Northwest Arkansas.

Registration and bike decorating will begin at 9 a.m. at Lawrence Plaza and the Amazeum parking lot. The event is free.

Guided bike rides will take participants to the hay field where the building's first renderings will be unveiled, followed by entertainment and family friendly activities.

"The event isn't just about the Helen Walton Center. It's about all early childhood programs." said Sunny Lane, the center's development manager. "The reason we opened the Early Childhood Initiative Center in 2009 is so that we can really help raise all boats so that families have access."

Often families move into the area, find a great program for their young children but then are put on a two- to three-year wait list, Lane explained.

The initiatives center trains early childhood professionals from Northwest Arkansas child care programs.

Only 19 percent of the area's early childhood centers were quality accredited in 2009. That has since increased to 55 percent because of the initiatives center, according to the organization's capital campaign website.

The initiatives center trained more than 2,800 early childhood professionals last year and worked with 252 of the nearly 500 centers in Northwest Arkansas, Lane said.

The initiatives center will be 8,700 square feet, tripling its current size.

"By expanding, we hope that we'll be able to reach all centers," Lane said.

The new building will also include 35,000 square feet for the Children's Enrichment Center.

The enrichment center will continue to serve 240 children, Michelle Barnes, executive director, said earlier this year. The building will increase the number of classrooms from 18 to 21, which will allow for the expansion of the quality of service, not number of children served.

LTL Architects from New York is working with Harrison French & Associates, East Harding Construction and Hight Jackson Associates to design the building.

LTL Architects was selected through the Walton Family Foundation's Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program, a pilot program to improve the quality of architecture design in Northwest Arkansas.

Participants in Saturday's event will also have the chance to donate toward the center's capital campaign.

The campaign has reached $12.6 million, or 88 percent of the goal, according to its website. Officials are working to raise the last $1.7 million.

NW News on 06/10/2016