LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Back in 1977, the late Taekwondo Master H. Lee, moved his headquarters from Omaha to Little Rock, because he said the pine trees reminded him of his native South Korea.
The American Taekwondo Association now produces Little Rock’s largest annual convention. Over 20,000 visitors from across the U.S. and around the world come here annually for the event.
There are now plans for a new $13 million world headquarters to be built in the Riverdale area. It will feature an office building, museum, training facility, and video production studio.
With the new headquarters also comes a new name, The American Taekwondo Association International, now overseeing over 2,500 clubs and schools spanning five continents.
Located at 1800 Riverfront Drive on the south side of Riverdale Road, the campus-like headquarters will feature a three-story office tower with three wings containing the museum, video room and training center. While the training center will house most of the organization’s activities, the 6,500-SF wing also includes a fitness center for the company’s 75 employees.
The new headquarters will eliminate most of the company’s need for travel, though some seminars will still be hosted elsewhere. Wright sees the change as a positive, saying he hoped that the ATAI will build enthusiasm among its members and licensees, as well as attract more attention to the Little Rock area.
“We’re going to have, aesthetically, a building that we hope to be iconic and add to the landscape of Little Rock, as well as reflect the status of an international headquarters,” Wright said. While the ATAI’s current office is somewhat “conservative,” as Wright put it, he looks forward to featuring landscapes that reflect Asian and Korean culture, including a large water feature and gardens, though more external features could be added in space that is not being used initially.
“We’ve got a lot of ideas and plans that may not be there early on, but will be added as we grow in order to show our history through statues and sidewalks with engraved names of [members] who reach a certain status within our organization,” he said. The water feature, which comprises several pools that decrease in size as they feed from each other, conveys an important ideal of taekwondo: the passing of knowledge.
“This will reflect part of our rank system,” Wright said, referring to the master instructor rank, which can take as many as 15-20 years to reach. “As part of the ceremony, you pass water from the grand master to master instructor to the student.”