Election called to fund baseball complex – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


story.lead_photo.captionThe Sentinel-Record/File photo

HOT SPRINGS — The Hot Springs Board of Directors put the fate of the Majestic Baseball Park Complex in the people’s hands last week, calling a Sept. 10 special election asking city voters to authorize up to $8.5 million of debt for revitalization of the city’s former baseball showplace.

Bonds would be issued on behalf of the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, with the 3% sales tax the commission levies on prepared food and lodging inside the city securing the debt. Voters decided last year to pledge proceeds from the tax to repayment of a $1.5 million bond issue for construction of an exhibition hall at Mid-America Science Museum.

The bond issue voters will decide later this year would overhaul the baseball complex at the former Boys & Girls Club of Hot Springs. The club’s board of directors donated the complex to the commission prior to dissolving last year following the revocation of the local club’s charter by the Boys & Girls Club of America. The club had reported annual operating deficits totaling more than $400,000 from 2014 to 2016, according to tax filings.

Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison told the city board Tuesday night that the overhaul would bring youth baseball back to the city, explaining how the complex could be a venue for local leagues and large tournaments that draw teams from out of town to play on fields redolent with the city’s past as a spring training destination.

“Where else can children play on fields where Babe Ruth, Cy Young and all these other great athletes did?” Arrison said, referring to the complex’s origins as a spring training site for teams that included the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Arrison told District 5 Director Karen Garcia on Tuesday that he’d be “absolutely” opposed to the city conditioning issuance of the bonds on payment of an administrative fee. The bonds would be issued in the city’s name and held in a city account, but the commission’s cash flow would service the debt.

“I would rather put that money into the project,” Arrison, explaining his opposition to the fee, said Wednesday.

Garcia raised the possibility of a fee last month, telling fellow directors the city should be compensated for staff time the finance department expends managing bond funds on the commission’s behalf.

A committee called Home Run for Hot Springs will advocate for passage of the bond issue.

“It’s citizens who are really interested in seeing this gets done,” Arrison said of the committee’s makeup. “If the voters pass it, we’ll be happy to pay for it. It’s something the community really needs, and it could generate tourism dollars with weekend tournaments.”

Metro on 07/08/2019

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