Hot Springs Theme Park Magic Springs Doubles Attendance

by Mark Hengel  on Monday, Mar. 10, 2008 12:00 am  

President and General Manager Dan Aylward has doubled attendance at Magic Springs & Crystal Falls in Hot Springs over the past five years.

"After the rent, you are still in the game and you have the operating profit," he said, but would not disclose revenues or profits. "Obviously if we are still operating and still adding rides, we have a wouldn't put more money in if you are not earning money."Hart said the obvious differences between Louisville and Hot Springs did not deter the investors. Louisville has more than 4 million residents within 100 miles, and Kentucky Kingdom competes with several theme parks within a day's drive. Hart focused on thrill rides to draw a crowd.

Hot Springs presents a different scenario.

"Hot Springs does like 700,000 in [annual visitors]," Hart said. "That's a wonderful base to work off."He also said the work of Hot Springs officials to reopen the dormant park made the decision easier.

Community support

David Byerly is president and CEO of the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. Tourism accounts for about 7,000 jobs in the Hot Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area, he said; Garland County has about 40,000 jobs total. The theme park is a boon to the small city, he said.

"Does the state have another one?" Byerly asked rhetorically. While there are some water parks scattered around Arkansas, the state hasn't had another true theme park since Dogpatch USA near Jasper closed in 1993.

Chamber members experience the park's impact when hotel rooms fill and restaurant receipts return, he said.

"I think this community enjoys a very large tourism [industry], and I think that owes greatly to having two of the largest tourism draws in the state," Byerly said, referring to Oaklawn Park and Magic Springs.

Jay Chesshir, president of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, formerly sat in Byerly's chair and helped recruit Themeparks LLC.

"Even when things weren't going well for the previous owners, it still had a major economic impact on Garland County and Hot Springs," he said.

"We saw the positive impact on the community and knew it could have an impact on Hot Springs and the state as a whole if it reached regional status."

The problem was enticing an investor to take over.

"We knew it would take a public-private partnership in order to create the total financing package required to produce an attraction that would be regional in scope," he said.

Garland County voters have passed three industrial development revenue bond issues in order to help the park continue investing. Magic Springs also receives a sales tax credit of about 25 percent.



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