At Conflict Memorial Park marketing campaign occasion, Little Rock mayoral hopeful Steve Landers requires improved recreation choices

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At a campaign event at War Memorial Park on Sunday, Little Rock mayor hopeful Steve Landers Sr. called for improving Little Rock’s outdoor recreation facilities and suggested the city may need to downsize its parks.

He argued that out of 63 parks, none of them are likely to meet park standards.

“So do we need 63 or 33?” Landers said. He added that with 33 parks, he’d “rather do a good job.”

The 68-year-old businessman, known for his car sales career, is trying to oust Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who is running for a second term.

The first ballot of the non-partisan mayoral competition will take place in November. A runoff is held the following month if no candidate receives at least 40% of the vote.

Landers and food blogger Greg Henderson have said they intend to run for mayor, and it’s possible other challengers could emerge after the city’s official nomination period begins.

On Sunday, Landers spoke to a group of about 30 people in an upstairs room at War Memorial Stadium.

The event was billed as “Friends of War Memorial Park”. Accordingly, a significant portion of the discussion centered on War Memorial and other parks, as well as golf at Little Rock.

The 18-hole municipal golf course at War Memorial Park closed in July 2019 after city officials decided to cut Little Rock’s budget by about $2.1 million.

Another city-owned golf course at Hindman Park was also closed due to the budget ordinance.

City officials later tried to get a golf entertainment company to lease part of War Memorial Park, but a 2020 call for proposals attracted no bidders.

Scott has long sought golf entertainment company Topgolf to open a venue in Little Rock. On May 4, the company announced plans to open its second Arkansas location in Little Rock, but a press release did not mention a planned location or opening date.

The gated golf course at War Memorial Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020.

Last year Scott pushed for a 10-year sales tax hike that would have funded millions of dollars for improvements to War Memorial and Hindman Parks, among other things, but voters rejected the package in a Sept. 14 referendum.

In an interview following Sunday’s discussion, Landers indicated that he wanted the War Memorial Park to be an attraction for all people, but was not committed to an option.

He called the golf course “a staple,” citing the possibility of a nine-hole course — or some kind of golf — in combination with other options like dog parks, pickleball, or bike trails.

Landers said he met with attendees “just to get votes on what the city wants, you know?”

At one point during the discussion, Landers seemed to suggest that the city should emulate its neighbor across the river.

“I take my hat off to North Little Rock,” Landers told the room. “You’ve got it. They have parks, they have ball fields, they have — do you know how much revenue baseball fields and football fields bring to a city?”

Little Rock needs things for people to do, Landers said, referring to both golf and places for people to walk and bike.

Jacquelyn Compton, a 42-year-old restaurant owner who attended Sunday’s event, described herself as a former Scott voter.

Compton said she “felt I was being sold a list of goods that I hadn’t brought as far as his qualifications to run this town and improve it for all who are here.”

This time, Compton said she tried to better screen the candidates she endorsed “with due diligence and research.”

She said she voted for Scott because she “believed he had good business policy and would help our city in business.”

Compton now supports Landers and said she felt “we need someone who knows how to run a business to be able to run the city better.”