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Majestic Park GM ‘dreams big’ about future

by Bryan Rice | May 22, 2023 at 4:03 a.m.
Southern Arkansas' Conner Allen (11) prepares to swing against Northeastern State Feb. 5 at Majestic Park. - Photo by Krishnan Collins of The Sentinel-Record

Editor's note: This is the second installment of a two-part series examining future possibilities for Majestic Park.

Based on its amazing history, amenities and gaming, Hot Springs is a prime candidate for a minor league team to put down roots in a place that has become a baseball town, again.

Having a minor league team on its own would be a huge boost to gate and concessions at Majestic Park.

"For sure," Majestic Park General Manager Derek Phillips said. "If we drew like the smallest in attendance around 400 people per game, that would be a good crowd for us. We do really well with our concessions. We are not quite the full kitchen a lot of people want us to be, but I think that allows us to do a better, more efficient job."

The average attendance for the Dunedin Blue Jays is 381 fans per game, marking the lowest average attendance in the minor leagues.

"We make good money on what we sell," Phillips said. "I have run every kind of park program there is and concession. I have never run a concession on that level. I know people are going to expect more like when you go to a Travs game. They fry, we do not deep fry. They deep fry fries and tenders. There are even probably some small restaurants in those stands. My first thought is yeah, it could be great.

"Our facilities might be a bigger question than the seating. Our bathrooms and concession are not huge. That might be something to consider too."

Phillips expressed there are different ways to bring a minor league team to the Spa City.

"Part of me thinks it is a great idea for Hot Springs, tourism and all the stuff that goes here, maybe an additional stadium could be built and just leave Majestic Park for what it is for league and travel ball," he said. "Maybe the team is able to do their own stadium somehow, some way."

Minor league baseball teams move cities just like the Major League teams do, and Majestic Park just needs to catch the eye of a prospective team.

"The restaurants, hotels and the activities, the tourism of Hot Springs," Phillips said. "I think it can be an ideal minor league city with the right size team. It really could be."

Las Vegas is collecting teams. Notably, the Oakland Athletics plan to relocate there. Hot Springs has Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort and tourism on a smaller scale of Vegas, but that could be a huge draw to a minor league team searching for a home.

"I agree 100%," Phillips said. "We really do. That would be a cool thing about having the park this close to Oaklawn. Could you imagine the connection between the two to have an actual minor league program playing here and having all the big time racing and casino that goes on over there? That is a huge atmosphere.

"Oaklawn, this park and then having, if there ever was a minor league system. That would be big time, because Oaklawn is definitely big time."

Hot Springs has experience with professional baseball, being the birthplace of spring training. If a minor league team chose to relocate and Hot Springs was on its radar, the infrastructure is already here to support a team.

"It sounds like a perfect place for it to happen," Phillips said. "Somebody asked me the other day, 'What all do you play over there?' I said, 'I'll be honest with you, and it is the truth. We play everything except Major League Baseball.'

"My focus stays on what we are doing. I can dream big, too. It seems like Hot Springs would be an ideal place for it. Hot Springs for its history and what all the city has going for it now. This would be a great place to have that."

Majestic Park would only have to host half the season's games because of travel. Scheduling would not be as difficult logistically as filling the stadium for only home games.

"I love the thought of it," Phillips said. "It is an amazing thought to think about it happening and being right here and what a great city for it. You look at what you have right now on that field and think anything could be unconstructed and reconstructed if you want to do it. It is just going to make your price higher. You could finagle the facility anyway you wanted to really, depending on what you are willing to pay."

A minor league baseball schedule spans 150 games and is played April-September. This would not interfere much with Majestic Park's current spring slate of games.

"Having both colleges play here and the wood bat league that we have here," Phillips said. "Now we host all the high school stuff we have really because we just wanted to have more stuff. That could probably kind of go away. All of those high schools have their own ballparks. We host all of those games because we are trying to fill the park. Just keep the premier stuff."

Majestic Park was built on an idea by Mike Dugan. Maybe Majestic Park expands based on another idea of growing baseball even more in Hot Springs, close to its spring training past.

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