Development to look out for in Fort Smith in 2022 – Times Record

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From expansions in the manufacturing sector to the city officially being named the future home of a multi-national training site for F-16 Falcon and F-35 fighter jets, 2021 has set Fort Smith on a path of growth in the coming years. 
“It is not an exaggeration to say that these next handful of few years are going to be the most exciting and growth-oriented that has ever happened in this city,” Vice Mayor Jarred Rego said. 
Here are a few things to look forward to in the new year. 
Looking for a new spot for a night out with drinks and games? 
Erik and Deborah Covitz hope to have 810 Billiards and Bowling sports open and fully functional by April. The newest addition of the Myrtle Beach-based franchise is at 5609 Rogers Ave. in the former Toys R Us building.  
It will be a full-functioning sports bar and restaurant with a 10-lane bowling alley, at least 6 true pocket billiards tables, dart boards, shuffleboard and board games. Covitz plans on hosting trivia nights and other events on slow sports nights. 
Wanting a little more sports and a little less bar? A new training facility will provide athletes in the River Valley with a place to fine-tune their baseball and softball skills. 
Fort Smith natives and brothers, Alan and Kevin Dickinson are set to open a D-BAT Baseball & Softball Academies at 4900 Regions Dr. in Fort Smith in the early months of 2022. The new location will mark the fourth in the state. 
The facility will house nine lanes, with three pitching machines and six open lanes available for rental and lesson use. 
Those looking for a quick spot to grab lunch or dinner are in luck in the new year as well. Both Panda Express and Newk’s Eatery announced Fort Smith locations in 2021. 
Construction on Panda Express is well underway at 8400 Rogers Ave. The fast-food favorite should be completed in early 2022. 
While progress on Newk’s Eatery is not quite as far along, the beloved chain is set to open its Fort Smith location at 4801 Phoenix Ave., next to Academy Sports. 
Site plans for the chain restaurant were approved Oct. 12 by the City Planning Commission. 
One of the most exciting projects in the city is set to open its doors in January as students return to school.
The Peak Innovation Center will be accessible to about 43,000 students from 22 regional school districts. The four distinct programs will focus on advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare sciences and the arts. Students in 11th and 12th grades that are enrolled in the programs will earn technical concurrent credit from the Western Arkansas Technical Center at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. 
The center was set to open this August but construction delays pushed the date to January.
A new charter school is also set to open its doors in Fort Smith in 2022. The Premier High School-Fort Smith will start enrolling in May and open its doors in August. The school is tuition-free and focuses on an individualized approach for students. 
The first Premier High School in Arkansas opened in Little Rock in 2013. The Fort Smith school will mark the fourth location in the state.  
It is hard to mention growth in the area without talking about the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.
Initial renovations on one of the college’s most exciting new endeavors, its Research Institute Health and Wellness Center, should be completed in Dec. 2022. 
Located at the former Golden Living facility, it will serve as a space for health professionals and students in the scientific community to come together and integrate “the arts and clinical intervention with discovery research activities, all with a goal of transforming health and wellness in the community.”
The five-floor facility will house a variety of professionals, projects and groups. The first floor will serve as the Health and Wellness Center. The 60,000 square-foot space will be home to a number of things including a community art gallery, a ceramics lab and kiln, a performing arts center and a space for clinical trials.
The fourth floor will feature a 60,000-foot research center that will be the largest biomedical research lab of all the osteopathic medical schools in the United States.
The RI/HWC, which sits on 63 acres of land, will also have a multi-use trail system. There will be three to four miles of cross country trails for mountain bikes, a 1-mile ADA accessible trail, a children’s bike park and a tree canopy trail.
The project has been in the works since 2017.
While it won’t be completed in the new year, construction on a $162 million expansion at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith is set to take place early in the year. Construction is expected to last around two years.
The emergency room and intensive care unit expansion will allow about 25,000 more patient visits per year.
Abbi Ross is the business and features reporter at the Southwest Times Record. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @__AbbiRoss


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