Sebastian County officials hope they can continue to foster the use of the property that until recently held First Tee of Fort Smith.
First Tee of Fort Smith in a Tuesday news release announced it had ceased operation due to financial circumstances and that its property had reverted back to Sebastian County.
County Judge David Hudson following the announcement said facilitating different kinds of athletic activities on the property would be worthwhile to the community, even after the closing of its former operator.
"We were certainly advocates for the program and would hate to see that not in effect," said Hudson.
First Tee Executive Director Chris Murphy in November announced the organization would be closing, adding that it needs about $250,000 per year to keep its doors open. Founded in 1998, First Tee teaches life skills, healthy habits and core values through the game of golf.
"We were not able to come to an agreement with First Tee Headquarters on another legal entity to continue the program," the First Tee board states in the release. "On behalf of the First Tee of Fort Smith board and First Tee headquarters, thank you to the community of children, parents, volunteers, coaches and donors who participated and supported the organization, providing a positive impact on the young people it reached."
Hudson said the county has not initiated any legal actions to have the property ownership change, which he said would likely happen "within the next few weeks." He said county officials will focus on evaluating partners and how they can continue to use the facility to serve the community.
Once this is done, Hudson said, he would like for activities to return to the property. He specifically said he would like to see junior golf back on the green, but didn't say the property is limited to the sport.
"Recently, we had a cross-country track meet out there, and it was well attended. That’s just one example of the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, Northside High School and Southside High School using that property and the hilly nature for a cross country meet. It’s compatible for that, so that’s just one example of the utility of the property to support this community," he said. "That will be an ongoing initiative, to talk about that."
"There’s a lot to be followed up on, to find and develop as we move forward," Hudson added. "That will be my focus, to use that property in some way to support athletic activities — specifically, junior golf."