UPDATED: Theme Park Company Buys Magic Springs & Crystal Falls in Hot Springs

PARC Management LLC, a firm that has purchased seven former Six Flags theme parks, said Tuesday that it has reached an agreement to buy the Magic Springs & Crystal Falls theme park in Hot Springs for an undisclosed price.

The combination water park and theme park has been owned by Magic Springs Development Co.

"It is our vision, and our mission, to bring high-quality, value oriented, family entertainment to our guests," Randal H. Drew, CEO of PARC Management, said in a news release. "With the acquisition of Magic Springs and Crystal Falls, our team has the opportunity to capitalize on the synergies between this property and our other destinations across the country."

PARC said Magic Springs' general manager, Dan Aylward, will remain at the park.

Both Steve Arrison, head of the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Dave Byerly, president of the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, said they learned about the sale in news coverage Tuesday morning. They said didn't know much about the deal or the new company involved.

"We don't have any of the details, and don't know anything other than what the newspaper reported this morning; that was the first that the chamber of commerce knew anything about it. And that's not normal for us," Byerly said. "But, anyway, we'll have to dig into that and figure out what's going on."

The more than 200-acre property sat lifeless on U.S. Highway 70 from 1995 until it was purchased in 1999 by Themeparks LLC of Louisville, Ky. Themeparks' affiliate, Magic Springs Development Co., has been in charge of the lease and the park's development. The company has developed the park into a regional attraction through relentless emphasis on families.

In a news release, Magic Springs Development Co. shareholders said they appreciated the support the park received.

"Without the support and vision of local and state leadership, this park would never have been a reality," Ed Hart, the development company's largest shareholder, said. "We thank everyone who has played a role in making Magic Springs an important community asset and major visitor attraction for the region."

For the 2008 season, the park added a six-slide ProRacer slide complex called Rapid Falls Raceway. The 50-ft. tall, multi-slide attraction allows people to race more than 310 feet on specially designed racing mats.

PARC owns theme parks in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, New York, California and Washington. Season passes for the parks will be accepted at all PARC properties.

Millions in Investment

Arkansas Business profiled new improvements to the park in March. In the past five years, attendance has doubled from 254,000 in 2002 to 518,000 last year. With each of those visitors spending an average of $23, the park's revenue last year was bumping up toward $12 million.

Investment in the park has totaled about $50 million. Industrial development revenue bonds have provided about $14 million, and Themeparks LLC provided the remaining $35 million, which includes the $1.5 million purchase price and about $14 million in initial investment by Themeparks.

Additions have included many rides, but the management team has also built two other draws: the Crystal Falls water park and a concert venue called Timberwood Amphitheater.

Themeparks LLC is owned by Ed Hart and four passive investors. The group bought Magic Springs in 1999. The group sold the Magic Springs property last year to a real estate investment company in Florida for $20 million, according to SEC records. The deal is a sale-leaseback, with Magic Springs Development Co. still operating the park.

The lease was for 20 years, with options allowing Magic Springs to extend the lease for another 20. The sale price roughly equals the original purchase price, Hart told Arkansas Business in March, but he would not give specifics. Hart said the sale was done to increase capital investment and separate himself and the other investors from the park's day-to-day management.

(With reporting by Jamie Walden.)