El Dorado—Former Oil Boom Town Attempts Revival of Population

A southern Arkansas city that once was an oil boom town in the 1920s is attempting to revive its commercial growth and interest.

City leaders in El Dorado are hoping a $100 million arts district will spark the move to reverse a population slide that has affected the city for decades, according to the Associated Press.

The man behind the project is Terry Stewart, once the CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He is also a former president of Marvel Comics but now is chairman of the El Dorado Festivals and Events.

“We have to create a destination,” he said. “That takes us into all kinds of entertainment: something for kids, good food, good service.”

El Dorado’s efforts to rekindle its growth started nearly a decade ago when Murphy Oil, headquartered in the city of about 18,000 created the El Dorado Promise, a 20-year pledge to pay college tuition for local high school graduates.


“A lot of people were seeing the decline,” said Madison Murphy, the son of Murphy Oil founder Charles Murphy Sr. and president of the Murphy Family Foundation. “You can either be proactive and get in front of it or you can just continue the slow pernicious decline.”

City leaders are spending $54 million in the first phase and $35 million in the second and the city has kicked in $14 million in development tax revenues over the past four years.

The Arts District is named after Murphy Oil and the first phase is the completion of a 2,000-seat auditorium, an 8,000-seat amphitheater and restaurants.

Concerts are planned this coming weekend by Ludacris, Smokey Robinson, ZZ Top and Brad Paisley.

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