HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Early voting is open in a special election in Hot Springs where a group wants to build a baseball complex on a site famous for a century of Spa City sluggers.
It will require Big League Money of $8.5 million and that means they need voters to play ball.
"Literally build it and they will come," said Jonathan Hamner, the chairman of Home Run for Hot Springs, hoping to build Majestic Park. "What we want to do is take what was an existing baseball facility and turn it into something where we could attract people on the weekends in a growing economy of travel baseball."
A historical marker for what was once called Majestic Park, a spring training ballpark that saw Major League legends when players prepared for the season in Hot Springs.
After that, local kids took over when the Boys & Girls' Club built youth fields. The new group is looking for a throwback to those glory days.
"About half of major league baseball's Hall of Fame played or coached here in Hot Springs," said Hamner.
The barnstorming teams of today are made up of boys and girls of all ages.
While the economy of that world is growing fast, the price for the Hot Springs facility is considered high. Hamner says there is already a tax on the books that funds the city's advertising and promotions board, but they need the money almost right away. So, the vote would approve a bond extension.
"We don't need an increase in taxes," he said. "We just want to be able to allocate the money to do this."
Home for Hot Springs has a website with the plan spelled out. It refers potential voters to a similar complex in Cabot as an example of what they want to do.
"Any given weekend, we will run anywhere between 40 and 100 teams," said Travis Young, the general director of Cabot Parks & Recreation, who also says the demand is out there even if another high-dollar complex were to come online.
"You look at the thousands of teams every weekend. Conway has a tournament. Benton has a tournament. We have a tournament. And this is the Fall. We have football going on, but there are still this many teams playing baseball," he said.
And Hamner says Majestic Park will shoot to the top of the list because of plans to use artificial turf on every field.
"The last three years, we've had record rainfall," Young said. "I can tell you right now I've lost over $100,000 in general revenue that we produce off of this facility."
"Parents will be able to count on us every weekend as a place that's going to play games, where other fields aren't going to be able to say that," said Hamner.
And Hamner adds that no matter the forecast, Hot Springs, as the busiest tourism city in Arkansas, can count on more players, coaches, and parents choosing the Spa City over other tournaments.
"If you can provide the nicest place to play in the biggest tourist destination in Arkansas, you've got a home run," he said.
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