The River Valley only has a handful of venues designed specifically with weddings in mind. A local couple hopes to change that.

Kalyan Akkineni and his wife, Suparna, plan to purchase an 11 acre tract of land at Chaffee Crossing to build a wedding venue. The building plans include a covered porch, balcony, bride and groom dressing areas, and an event area for receptions.

“All the people from Fort Smith are going to Bentonville or Fayetteville and different places to have the wedding done,” Suparna Akkineni said. “I mean, the whole family has to go there. I just want to have something in Fort Smith.”

Local venues include Kindred Barn in Mulberry, The Barn by Two Brothers, Notus Farmhouse in Muldrow and the Fort Smith Convention Center. Some historic mansions near downtown have also been used for weddings.

Ghan and Cooper real estate broker Bob Cooper told the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority real estate committee Thursday there are trees behind the proposed building as well. Cooper said this will allow the venue to expand backward to provide outdoor amenities.

Cooper said the Akkinenis offered $200,000 for the land and want to close on or before Sept. 18.

Utilities are expected to be in place, so there shouldn’t be any water or sewer line additions, and neither Barling nor FCRA would be responsible for any extensions. The Akkinenis have agreed to pay for any additional utility work necessary.

The venue would be located in Barling, but they believe the location will be convenient for Fort Smith residents.

In addition to the wedding venue, the Akkinenis are building an event venue, focused primarily on birthdays, banquets, general entertainment and other dinner events.

Suparna Akkineni said she was working on the event center already and thought adding a wedding venue would be beneficial for the area and make sense for business. The duo recently closed on the land to begin work.

“I wanted to be an event manager before,” Suparna Akkineni said. “That is my passion.”

Cooper said the couple is working quickly on the event center, located on Massard Road, with the initial designs approved by the FCRA Design Review Committee Wednesday.

“They’re committed to Chaffee Crossing. They live out here now and plan to stay living out here and possibly build a new home and stay in this area,” Cooper said. “They’ve shown a commitment to Fort Smith and the area, which I think, to have the two businesses out here, they will work well with each other.”

Suparna Akkineni said there are no planned opening dates for either venue other than “as soon as possible.” She would like the event center to be ready to hold Christmas parties.

Kalyan Akkineni is a local physician with the Baptist Health System. He studied medicine in India before moving to the United States. His wife is excited to get started on these new projects and provide enjoyment to residents and area visitors.

“Southern people are so welcoming, so that’s the part I love about over here,” Suparna Akkineni said. “I thought this would be (the) place where I’d want to stay for a lifetime.”

– Southwest times record.