Two buildings set to open in late 2023 at Walmart’s new corporate campus in Bentonville are a 360,000-square-foot fitness center and a 73,000-square-foot child care center. The Walton family is providing $225 million for the facility.
Company officials and members of the Walton family announced the details on Wednesday (April 6) at an event at Walmart headquarters.
The new Walton Whole Health & Fitness Center will focus on expanded health programming to include healthy eating and cooking, and relaxation massages. Other amenities include indoor pickleball courts, outdoor tennis, three swimming pools, a cafe, and spaces for basketball, volleyball, cricket, yoga, weight training, and fitness. (link here for a tour of the Walmart campus).
The Walton family’s fitness dates back to 1983 when the company opened a facility at 1701 SE 14th Street in Bentonville. Alice Walton, daughter of founders Sam and Helen Walton, said her health and fitness were important to her father, who got much of his exercise chopping wood for the family fireplace. She said there weren’t many options for fitness in 1980s Bentonville. Sam Walton was also known to play basketball on local outdoor courts at area schools. Alice Walton, along with her nephews Tom and Steuart Walton, spoke at Wednesday’s event.
The gym has expanded over the years, but Alice Walton said that after nearly 40 years, Walmart employees need and deserve affordable access to health and wellness that goes beyond physical exercise to include health. mental. She also talked about the Institute of Integral Health she is headlining on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Walton said health care has evolved over the past 30 years, but her institute seeks to change the way health care is viewed. She said that emotional health has to be on par with physical health and that the entire health care payment system needs to shift to an outcomes-based model.
“Northwest Arkansas is the perfect place to see if we can transform healthcare. We are working with large employers in the region, insurers and health care providers in this effort,” said Alice Walton. “Providing associates with easy access to offerings that enhance health and wellness is an essential element of holistic health, and our family is delighted to support these innovative resources.”
Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart’s senior vice president of corporate real estate, said the new gym will also offer programs for families, such as archery classes and movie nights at the three downtown pools. She told Talk Business & Politics that any Walmart employee can join the gym and have access to the programming. That cost is now $9 per pay period. She said the new fee schedules have yet to be determined, but said they will be affordable because access for all is at the heart of Walmart’s mission. Marsiglio also said the support and input from the Walton family is also a plus given the ongoing work across the health curriculum and practices.
She said the 73,000-square-foot child care center will have room for 500 children ages 6 months through pre-K. Like Sam’s Club corporate childcare services that launched in 2020, Walmart will outsource the work to a third-party provider. Marsiglio said that on-site childcare is the most requested benefit for Walmart employees. She said the Walmart child care center will also offer summer camps and other programs. Marsiglio said that employees at Walmart’s corporate campus will have the first rights in the childcare spaces. If there is excess space, services will be offered to employees at other locations in the area.
Donna Morris, Walmart’s chief people officer, said Walmart corporate employees have about 300 babies a year. Marsiglio said the region lacks affordable childcare and is also the reason many women stay out of the workplace, contributing to labor supply problems.
The Helen R. Walton Child Enrichment Center in Bentonville has been a de facto daycare center for many Walmart employees over the years. Marsiglio said Walmart and Sam’s Club offer on-site childcare, which should free up space at the center for other children in the area. He said it’s too early to tell what the cost of on-site childcare will be, but he reiterated that it will be affordable for those who work on campus.
CLARITY OF THE CURRENT CAMPUS
With work continuing on the new corporate campus, there have been questions about the fate of the 8th and Walton location. Tom and Steuart Walton said their real estate development firm blue crane has agreed to acquire the existing headquarters location at 8th Street and Walton Boulevard for an undisclosed sum. Blue Crane is the real estate acquisition and development arm of gateway groupa diversified holding company headquartered in Bentonville and run by the Walton brothers.
Plans have yet to be determined, but the brothers discussed the need for higher housing density near downtown that would allow for a more connected community where residents can bike or walk to work.
Steuart Walton, also a Walmart director, said the new headquarters site will establish the company for the next 50 years. He said the family’s mission is to make Bentonville the best place to live in the country.
“We have to build and catch up and move on,” he said.