Combining two qualities it knows best, sports and history, Hot Springs has added another attraction to its bullpen full of fun things to do. Linking together 26 historical markers with the latest digital technology, baseball fans can now dig deep into a rich and mostly unknown tale of their favorite sport on the Hot Springs Baseball Trail.
It’s an inexpensive project that’s earned Hot Springs an honorable mention as a 2013 Arkansas Business City of Distinction Award for Tourism Development in cities with more than 20,000 people.
The project began in March 2011 when a panel of preeminent baseball historians began an informal research project revealing that Hot Springs was a popular baseball spring training site in the early 20th century, where teams came “to boil out in the springs.”
The volunteer research got the attention of the city’s Advertising & Promotion Commission, who paid for the plaques that would dot the Baseball Trail. Locations were plotted by five baseball historians with extra input from the Garland County Historical Society.
With the plaques, modern technology graces the historical tour in ways that may have been unimaginable even ten years ago. “Quick Response” codes, better known as QR codes, are placed at the locations and allow anyone with a mobile device to dive into more of the story.
“This way they get to enjoy the video on each site as well as the audio,” says Steve Arrison, CEO of the Hot Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The interesting thing through the new technology is that we can track who is accessing the Trail, and so far in 2013, we have had visitors from 36 different states make at least one stop on the Baseball Trail.”
The cost of creating and maintaining the trail has been minimal. “We have used no paid media to promote the Baseball Trail,” says Arrison. “The Trail has been a natural story because of the intense interest in baseball’s past. AAA Southern Traveler magazine with a circulation of 400,000 named the trail as an ‘Official Southern Travel Treasure’. Associated Press and papers across the country have carried stories about this new tribute to baseball’s past.”
Other than the initial plaque cost and an annual cost of $1,800 to run the website, apps and QR codes, the only regular expense is washing the plaques with some soapy water.
In return, Hot Springs has received plenty of publicity and visits from baseball fans just discovering the city’s long untold tale of spring training.