The city council is considering a contract with Majestic Park

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Twenty years from now, Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison wants Majestic Park to look like it did when it opened earlier this year.

He asks the city for help, asking for $75,000 for summer youth baseball programs at the site of the former Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club. The Hot Springs Board of Directors will review the services contract tonight.

Due to the tender exemption requested by the city, an ordinance is required to authorize the contract. It is not “feasible or practical” to solicit offers for youth baseball programs, according to the order the board will consider tonight.

“Baseball is back in Hot Springs,” Arrison said. “That was the goal. You have to replace things if you want this to remain a first-class establishment. To do that, you have to have funding.”

The more than 500 kids ages 5 to 15 signed up for the 2022 season shows Majestic Park is satisfying “pent-up demand” for youth baseball, Arrison said. They no longer have to travel to neighboring counties or compete for limited spots in local leagues.

Registration details he provided at the request of the council showed that 471 boys and 33 girls are taking part, with 137 in the 7-8 year old division and 117 in the 5-6 year old division. The Lakeside School District has the largest representation, with 216 children. Hot Springs and Lake Hamilton have 207 and 40 of their participating students.

The board asked for demographic information about program participants, but Arrison said the program only tracks age, gender and school district.

“We do not ask for race or nationality on our registration documents, so that information is not available,” he said in an email to the city.

Scholarships have been awarded to the 87 children who applied, according to information requested by the city council. The $12,500 in scholarships and equipment left a balance of $10,928 in the Majestic Park Scholarship Fund at the end of April.

None of the city contract money would fund the scholarships, Arrison said. Private donations and fundraising are the primary benefactors of the scholarship fund.

The city paid the Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club $30,000 a year for youth baseball programs before it disbanded in 2018. Arrison said the Boys & Girls Club had a $50,000 service contract with the city ​​at any given time.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America withdrew the charter from the local chapter after annual operating deficits from 2014 to 2016 depleted the reserve from more than $500,000 reported in 2013 to less than $90,000 at the end of 2016.

Prior to disbanding, the local club’s board of directors donated the baseball diamonds, which were the spring training grounds for many Major League Baseball teams in the 1940s and 1950s, to Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission.

City voters approved the debt issue that funded the construction of Majestic Park during a special election in September 2019. Eleven hundred of the city’s more than 20,000 registered voters approved a ballot question engaging the 3% sales tax on advertising commission levies on accommodation and food prepared in the city for debt repayment.

The city launched the bonds on behalf of the publicity commission in November 2019. The $7,875,000 bond issue authorized by the city council provided $7.5 million for construction of the five-lot complex. The 30-year amortization schedule included a maximum annual debt service of $619,148, with over $14 million in principal and interest payable over the term of the debt.

Majestic Park’s statement of income and expenses for 2022 showed $430,200 paid to the city for servicing the bonds. Arrison said the resort’s operating revenue should cover its expenses, excluding debt service, in two to three years. The statement projected $326,400 in revenue versus $970,426 in expenses, which included debt service and $300,000 for amortization.

“We’re in the first year of the operation,” Arrison said. “We knew we were going to lose money. We hope to break even within two or three years.”

The Champion Christian Tigers will face the Wiley College Wildcats at Majestic Park in April. – File photo by The Sentinel-Record
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