Development Underway for New 400-Acre Fort Smith Metro Area Airpark

The new Patriot Airpark fly-in community will be centered around a 2,300-foot-long turf runway and is expected to boast more than 200 homes in Pocola, Oklahoma.

Airplanes at the grass strip, the centerpiece of the in-development airpark. [Courtesy: Patriot Airpark]

A new airpark is coming to the Fort Smith, Arkansas, metro area. The fly-in community, which will be centered around a 2,300-foot-long turf runway, is expected to boast more than 200 homes and an array of outdoor recreational offerings. 

Lorie Robertson, chief development and marketing officer for Patriot Airpark, highlighted the development team’s goals for the project.

“Patriot Airpark is a beautiful 400-acre site that was formerly a cattle farm here in Pocola [Oklahoma],” said Robertson of the city located just west across the border from Fort Smith. “The property is being carefully transformed into an aviation community with a master development plan that includes hangar homes, traditional residences, commercial and retail spaces, and outdoor amenities. The geographic location in the middle of the country creates a perfect hub concept for pilots and businesspeople with interests (and family) in other states.

“The flight time is dramatically less when you start from the middle. Combined with the low cost of living in the region and the incredible cultural and outdoor adventure opportunities in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, this is a fantastic place to live.

Proposed site plan for Patriot Airpark. [Courtesy: Patriot Airpark]

“Our typical hangar homes will be 5,000 square feet with 2,500 for the hangar and 2,500 or more of living space above or beside the hangar. Ideally, these will be ‘barndominium’ style homes built from red steel and metal siding, but traditional wood construction is also an option. Phase one includes 14 1-acre lots that are ready to go. We also have a construction company that can build homes according to the buyer’s specs, so they have a lot of flexibility with the design.”

Robertson, who previously spent many years in community and economic development, has been friends with Patriot Airpark’s founder, Alex Cardenas, for about 15 years. The two ran into each other one day at a local restaurant, where he asked her to come aboard and help provide additional lift to the fledgling project.

“Alex, the owner of the property, spent the last year and a half building a lake and other amenities,” she said. “The lake has a 1.5-mile trail around it, and several peninsulas that offer dry camping sites and picnic tables. It’s a really nice amenity that is great for camping, fishing, and kayaking, and it will complement our future RV park. Alex has invested considerable time and money to lock in the right outdoor amenities at Patriot Airpark. He has built a footgolf course [played with a soccer ball], cleared land for soccer fields, and started building mountain bike trails through the woods on the north side of the property.” 

Cardenas, a veteran and entrepreneur, already has moved to Patriot Airpark and is raising his family there. 

“We don’t want to overbuild the community," Robertson said.  "We want to protect the rural lifestyle and the outdoor opportunities for adventure—the sports, the trails, the fishing, and everything that goes along with what makes Patriot Airpark special. In the initial concept plan, there are around 230 [lots]. Not all of those would be hangar homes, though. The property is naturally split by the orientation of the runway.

“Lots on the west side of the property will be aviation homesites, and the east side will be traditional single-family and multifamily residential. Airplane hangars are also a part of our master plan, as well as commercial, retail, and restaurant spaces that will bring homeowners together as a micro-community.” 

A rendering of a ‘barndominium’ hangar home at Patriot Airpark. [Courtesy: Patriot Airpark] 

At Patriot Airpark, there is one newly constructed hangar, which is the site of a skydiving operation, Adventure Skydive Center. This is one of many businesses that the development team expects will be based on-site. The airport runway, recently designated by the FAA as OL42, has been established for more than 20 years and will soon host an exciting aviation event.

“We are hosting a National STOL Series qualifier event, Arklahoma STOL, on May 24-25,” she said. “This will be our first event, but our goal is to host the national finals [for the National STOL Series] next year, or at the latest, in 2026. We really want to bring that event here to the central United States.”

The National STOL event is expected to attract pilots from around the country as well as at least 1,000 aviation fans. Spectators are welcome to fly in before the competition starts. Choctaw Casino & Resort is less than five minutes away in Pocola, Oklahoma, and there will be a shuttle running to and from the hotel. Camping and RV spots are available before, during, and after the event through the holiday weekend. The event schedule and camping information can be found on the Arklahoma STOL website.  Registration for pilots is on the National STOL Series website.

Robertson advised that the interest in the area hasn’t been limited to attendees of the short takeoff and landing competition. Rather, Fort Smith and its surrounding communities have been the focus of aviation headlines for other reasons as well recently. 

“Within 15 minutes of Patriot Airpark, you have Fort Smith Regional Airport (KFSM) and Ebbing Air National Guard Base, which is home to the Arkansas Air National Guard. Ebbing was chosen by the U.S. Air Force to be the new site for the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program,” Roberterson said. “The Air Force estimates that as many as 1,000 families or more will be relocating to this region. The housing market is tight, so it’s great that Patriot Airpark is already established. We have real estate, and we are ready to build homes. We could start pouring foundations next week if we wanted to. Talk about impeccable timing.

“Everything seems to be falling into place—the development, the event, the amenities. It’s the perfect place and time to start this development because there’s nothing exactly like it in the market. We’re inviting prospective buyers to come on over to OL42 and ‘land where they’ll love to live!’”

Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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