The Railyard Entertainment District, new to the city of Rogers, represents an effort to strengthen the downtown area. Local businesses, such as Club Frisco, The Foreman and Parkside Public, are cultivating excitement for the district’s potential moving forward.
Opened this past June, the Rogers Railyard District resides on roughly five blocks throughout the east side of downtown Rogers. With its many stores and restaurants, the district brings attractions allowing patrons to enjoy downtown in a new way. Sitting right in front of the train tracks, the district promises to be a regional attraction joining other NWA landmarks located in Rogers, such as the Walmart AMP open-air concert venue, Pinnacle Country Club, Beaver Lake and the Daisy Airgun Museum.
The city is growing right along with the Northwest Arkansas region. In August, its school district was named the best employer in the state by Forbes, and Rogers now is home to three public high schools (Rogers High, Heritage High and Rogers New Tech High.) The latest 2021 estimates have Rogers approaching a population of 71,000. And though residents may be divided by high school loyalty, downtown offers a distinct community connection.
But while neighboring cities like Bentonville and Fayetteville saw significant transformation or activity in recent years, downtown Rogers remained the same. But city officials began to see downtown’s potential as new businesses moved in.
Peter Masonis, public relations manager for the city, said, “The city of Rogers was hoping that the Railyard Entertainment District would come to fruition for the past few years as part of an effort to help revitalize downtown.”
Bentonville and Fayetteville may attract more traffic than Rogers, but the city has been taking notice. The new entertainment district, opened in June, allows for alcoholic beverages to be carried openly throughout the district, and it’s helping draw new visitors and promote new downtown attractions.
After purchasing a wristband from a participating business, district patrons of legal drinking age can carry and consume alcohol within district boundaries Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Beverages must be purchased at participating district businesses and consumed from compostable district cup.
In addition to the entertainment district, the Railyard offers activities for all ages. Families can enjoy a playground and splash pad, and live concerts are held each weekend. The district also is near the Lake Atalanta bike trails and the Railyard Bike Park.
The Walton Family Foundation has had its hand in the shaping a major part of Northwest Arkansas. From Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville to the area’s world-renowned bike trails and the Razorback Regional Greenway, the foundation is investing in its larger home community including Rogers.
The city is working with the foundation’s Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program to promote a high level of design throughout Benton and Washington counties. The Railyard Bike Park is part of this effort to rebrand downtown Rogers.
The focus on downtown is helping grow a sense of distinct community in Rogers, according to Jeremy Pate, senior program officer with the Walton Family Foundation, which supports local communities.
“The park exemplifies how collaborations between cities and Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program can leverage diverse perspectives and experiences that result in public spaces where everyone feels welcomed,” he said. “Railyard Park will help foster community connections, economic vitality and vibrancy in downtown Rogers.”
Fifteen businesses are participating as part of the entertainment district — Ozark Beer Co., Havana Tropical Grill, Yeyo’s Mezcaleria Taqueria, The Foreman, Onyx Coffee Lab, Moonbroch Brewing Co., Hapa’s Hawaiian Bar & Grill, Victory Theater, Parkside Public, The Rail Pizza Co., Levi’s Gastrolounge, Iron Horse Coffee Co., Club Frisco, Las Palmas and Butterfield Stage.
Business owners agree that increased foot traffic brings a new positivity to the downtown area. Masonis said feedback from businesses so far has been encouraging.
Marty Shutter, marketing director for Ozark Beer Co., said the addition of the entertainment district has resulted in an “amazing” transformation.
“Most of us live in or near downtown, so we’re both personally excited for the amazing things happening in our front yard, but also excited to see the influx of people taking in downtown Rogers for the first time,” he said.
That is happening more and more. Ozark Beer Co. has seen increased traffic and retail sales since the district opened.
“We benefit directly from more and more people who come downtown and discover our beer, purchasing from us and hopefully soon from a local restaurant or liquor store,” Shutter said. “We’re finding that people make an entire night or day out of enjoying downtown Rogers, so that increased and repeat traffic is a huge boon to our business.”
Since the pandemic hit, supporting local businesses has become a priority across the country. Shutter said his business is feeling a sense of gratitude towards its home city.
“OBC is inseparable from the community that supports us, and it’s important to us that we are not only giving back but actively engaged in creating and fostering that community which makes Rogers such a wonderful place to live and work,” Shutter said.
Masonis said it’s too early to determine just how district businesses’ bottom lines will be impacted, but he noted that there’s an excitement in seeing Rogers residents and visitors enjoying downtown in a new way.
“The eagerness to be a part of revitalizing downtown is tangible,” he said. “Patrons have benefited from getting a drink and heading outside to enjoy the music from Butterfield Stage or congregating in Frisco Plaza on a nice evening. This has all created a spark of excitement in downtown that we look forward to seeing grow even further.”
READ ALSO: Pour It, and They Will Come: Mountain Home’s Trailblazing Entertainment District Drawing Crowds