10 reasons to vote 'no'
There is no logical reason or need for an $8.5 million ballpark complex in that area of Hot Springs. The city, nor did anybody, try to save the Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club as other charities have been helped.
The neighborhood where the complex is planned is a low-income area and not easily accessed. Traffic tie-ups and noise from a large event will cripple local family life on those days.
The Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission (A&PC) is using this special election to keep their jobs and keep us paying the extra 3-percent hamburger tax for 30 more years! The complex price tag equates to national level collegiate quality complexes, not a city youth sports area.
This land was gifted by the Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club organization upon their demise. Their bylaws required the land and buildings be transferred only to another nonprofit organization. The clubhouse building transfer met that requirement but the status of the A&PC and their planned use of the land would make for an interesting court case.
Will the A&PC legally be responsible for the $8.5 million debt? No! According to their legal filing: " ... issuance of bonds by the City ... payable from a pledge of collections of the existing 3% tax levied by the City. ... " The city will be fully responsible.
Many, many questions have been asked as to who will be responsible for the complex; clean it, maintain it, schedule events, collect revenues, police it, hire and pay staff, and all other day-to-day operations. Who? The city parks department will have to expand staff and budgets to do the job!
Has any coordination/discussion been held with the church now operating the adjoining clubhouse building, discussions with any local youth baseball organizations, or has any coordination been done with anybody in the sports leagues? And, why wasn't any space allowed for soccer?
According to their paid advocacy group "teams must often travel to Benton or Little Rock to play," however, there is a new (and presently being completed) youth sports complex at 5050 Highway 7 north, Hot Springs Village, built by their Boys & Girls Club. As much as the Village has always supported Hot Springs, why is this Hot Springs proposal trying to undercut all their ongoing efforts?
Will the A&PC continually hold liability insurance policies on the proposed complex? No, this will be a very large city park and city taxpayers will be on the hook for all ongoing expenses to operate and care for it, for 30 years!
Vote no for an $8.5 million dollar city youth sports complex that has no long-range plan, is poorly placed, the large size not needed, and with so many, many questions that cannot or will not be answered by the Advertising and Promotion Commission? They are selling you a lame duck for their own benefit! Vote no!
'Home Run' needed
The Home Run for Hot Springs campaign is what we have needed for quite some time. The Boys Club fields served a great purpose for our area children and teens. As times change, so does the way things are done. Other communities have gotten way ahead of Hot Springs in being able to not only offer a great league system as well as a travel baseball tournament system. Home Run for Hot Springs will do just that.
Unfortunately, the disinformation that is swirling around on social media about Home Run for Hot Springs has caused some to question why we need these fields. The facts are that many area children love and want to play baseball. This last spring, with the help of my wife and several others, we were able to provide many area children with a league and we had over 400 participate from grades 1-8. In this league, we were also able to do two travel-style tournaments and the amount of parents and grandparents that were so happy to have a place to play was overwhelming. The need is there. We were limited on our league by the fact that we really had no place to meet our teams practice needs and deal with weather-related issues because of working with only 1 field. The city of Hot Springs allowed us to use the old ball field at the Baseball Trail Park to meet some of our practice needs and Mountain Pine, as well.
This is just from a league perspective. As a travel baseball coach the last four years, we have had to travel to Cabot, North Little Rock, Conway, Texarkana, Benton/Bryant, and NW Arkansas. These cities have multiple fields and multiple locations. They all saw the need to invest in their area youth and have a thriving population of young adults who want to start their families in places that offer these opportunities. Hot Springs is missing out on new families wanting to relocate here as well as the tax dollars that would flow into the community. At the end of the day, it's not about who is running what or where the money is coming from, it's about creating a culture where young kids can enjoy baseball and stay locally to do it.
President of the Conway Chamber of Commerce Brad Lacy has seen this firsthand. He states, "In trying to be realistic and deliberate about our opportunities for economic development, youth sports became the mechanism through which we built a destination spot." And Conway is just that when it comes to youth baseball and softball. Youth sports is a 15 billion dollar industry with a 7 percent growth rate per year. We as a community should have jumped on board long before now.
So vote "yes" to Home Run for Hot Springs and let us give everyone an opportunity to play baseball in your own backyard and let us help our city grow as well!
Lakeside Youth Baseball Association
Not opposed; voting 'no'
I am not opposed to the proposed baseball field project. I will, however, be voting against it, for several reasons. The first is the lack of information and details being provided to the general public as to how five fields, no matter how state of the art, is costing $8.5 million, with no cost whatsoever for the land itself. The second is the unnecessary financing of it for 30 years by extending a tax that has the most impact on those with the least resources, i.e. the 3-percent "hamburger tax." With the reserve fund the Advertising and Promotion Commission has, the fields could be done and paid for within a few years, one or two at a time, with zero indebtedness incurred.
As to the A&P and the city being able to do this project without borrowing off the backs of taxpayers, one has to look no further than an article in this paper last week. After admittedly spending over $2 million through the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to clean up the remains of the Majestic Hotel (and no telling how much on consultants and independent studies), our city board of directors turned down two private investors who had plans to purchase and build a luxury resort on the property. One of them offered $2.1 million. So the city could have recouped its own money there and invested it as at least a 25 percent down payment on the construction of these baseball fields. But just like they refused to help the Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club when it was faltering, they sat on their hands on these offers, and there seems no timetable on when visitors and residents alike will have to keep looking at the ugly eyesore that has been a rubble heap for years now.
What happened to fiscal responsibility? What has happened to paying for things in full, as you go? This is not a life or death situation. This is not a trauma center or a bridge that has collapsed. Do the fields, but do them as we can afford them. In short, this city government has resorted to a Washington, D.C. approach to this -- "Hey, it's not our money, so spend it as fast as you can before you even get it."
I'm voting no Sept. 10, and I urge all taxpayers who don't see this as vital to our city's future, or simply believe it can be done in a more responsible manner, to do the same.
Positives for Hot Springs
There are many positives for Hot Springs from the Home Run for Hot Springs campaign but I would like to focus on three very positive impacts to the community.
1) Hot Springs youths need a baseball facility. With the closing of the Boys & Girls Club, the closest organized baseball is at Lake Hamilton. Lake Hamilton has a fine facility but for those living in the city the commute to the Lake Hamilton facility is not very convenient. The organizers of Home Run for Hot Springs are also going to use funds from the Ritter Communications for scholarships for underprivileged youths, which will ensure diversity and allow all our youth that want to play baseball to have a place to play in the heart of Hot Springs. Amenities such as this park also serve to increase Hot Springs attractiveness for young families who want their children involved in sports activities.
2) Weekend tournaments are a great source of revenue for Hot Springs businesses. Anyone who has had kids involved in playing on a traveling baseball team know the amount of money they spend in other communities. Youth tournaments typically involve the whole family coming to town and one to two nights of hotel rooms and numerous meals. Hot Springs in unique in that we have many other attractions such as the lakes, Magic Springs, and Garvan Woodland Gardens. I strongly suspect that many of these families will choose to add a night or two to enjoy Hot Springs while here for a youth baseball tournament. Since these typically occur on weekends this won't conflict with our local youth baseball leagues and Hot Springs parents that have youth on these teams will be able to sleep in their own bed and save some money.
3) Hot Springs needs to preserve its rich heritage. The Majestic Field was the site of training camp for the Boston Red Sox from 1909 until 1920. Many have been involved in honoring baseballs deep roots in Hot Springs from the early 1900s. Naming the new facility Majestic Park and including references throughout the park to its rich heritage is great for Hot Springs.
Hot Springs has historically suffered from the mentality of "Good is Good Enough." Having that type of mentality is what made me think when I left Hot Springs for college back in 1978 that I wouldn't ever want to live here. After having children and facing the education situation in Little Rock my wife Gina and I chose to come back in 1995. The community has improved drastically since 1978 and even since 1995 but we have to continue to improve and offer more activities for both our residents and visitors to stay competitive in both jobs and tourism. This initiative will involve no new taxes and makes sense. Early voting starts Tuesday. Please get out and vote to help hit a Home Run for Hot Springs.
Preserve ACTI instead
We should spend $8 million on preserving ACTI instead of building a ballpark. Protecting our heritage is very important.
The ACTI complex is deteriorated and outdated. I propose shutting off the water, electricity, and gas to save money. Then we would only need money for security and to fire proof each floor. We should also build a fire pump station on the complex grounds. A much-needed safety feature for downtown Hot Springs.
We can do it. We can save ACTI as our leaders come up with a long term plan. Thousands of volunteers are ready to step in to help. We have the resources, manpower, and willpower. We can do it.
Are our officials willing to do something?
Michael P. Lucas
'No' to bonds
I took a drive on Saturday to look at the spot where the new baseball fields are supposed to cost us $8.5 million dollars, I saw no parking availability. I went online and looked at the plans for the fields, one parking area had 34 or 35 spots. As I drove along the side street, there's no parking, it's a walkway trail, very nice, if you live in the neighborhood. Going back to Central Avenue, houses and autos on both sides of a two-lane street. So are the homes going to the new baseball fields going to be torn down? Maybe that's where the $8.5 million dollars comes in, you have to buy up the neighborhood from Central Avenue to the new Majestic Park so we'll have parking room for all the visitors from out of town. Of course, I would expect a shuttle bus to the fields.
I happened to go past the Hot Springs High School and even with all their parking lots, people were parking along the roadsides.
Funny thing is, Babe Ruth played off Whittington Avenue, why are the plans for an area buried in an obscure place? Donated land should go for local citizen's activities, not a guess in the dark for tourism. If I were a tourist, I wouldn't be parking in that area.
I stand by my decision to vote no to a renewal of bonds that will reach into my grandchildren's pockets. I by no means wish to upset the residents of that area, but you need a cleanup.
Hot SpringsEditorial on 09/01/2019
Print Headline: Sunday's Letters to the Editor