Hot Springs board to review $2.1M offer for Majestic Hotel
HOT SPRINGS — The city needs time to review R.A. Wilson Enterprise’s $2,163,128 offer for the Majestic Hotel site, City Manager Bill Burrough told the Hot Springs Board of Directors on Tuesday.
The board agreed, voting after no debate or discussion at Tuesday’s special meeting to table the offer until the board’s May 18 business meeting.
“That will give us time to vet and flesh this offer out,” Burrough told the board, explaining that the four parcels totaling 5 acres at 100 Park Ave. need to be appraised before the city can accept an offer.
Burrough told the board CBRE in Fayetteville has been hired to appraise the property the city acquired in 2015.
“We should receive that in the next week or two,” he said.
The contract appraisal service used by the Garland County assessor’s office assigned a $1.34 million value to the property. R.A. Wilson Enterprises President/CEO Rick Wilson said the $2.16 million offer represents what the city borrowed from its solid waste fund to acquire the property, demolish its condemned structures and mitigate environmental hazards.
Updated values and objectives for the property’s redevelopment that the board adopted earlier this month included recouping the city’s investment.
R.A. Wilson Enterprises plans to build the Majestic Entertainment Pavilion, a 5,000-seat outdoor entertainment venue similar to the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers, First Security Amphitheater in the Little Rock River Market and the Murphy Arts District Amphitheater in El Dorado.
A rendering of the preliminary concept can be viewed on the company’s website, www. wilent.net.
Wilson said last week that a team headed by his son, Matthew Wilson, R.A. Wilson’s vice president of real estate and construction, began studying the potential for an outdoor entertainment venue on the site more than a year ago.
“We’re a tourist and entertainment town,” said Rick Wilson, a Hot Springs native and 1972 graduate of Hot Springs High School. “It’s just a handin-glove fit. We have 100,000 people in Garland County who will also patronize this business. People in Garland County are looking for entertainment.
“… There’s nothing like this in Benton or Bryant. I assure you this will show up over there if it doesn’t happen in Hot Springs. If it does happen in Hot Springs, it’s going to prevent it from happening there. I would never put this in if there were one 25 miles from here.”
Wilson said similar venues his team toured last year have proved to be successful, regardless of their location.
“The actual locations of these pavilions have little to do with their success,” he said. “It’s the management and operation of it: Booking entertainment, the right kind of entertainment and a cross-section of entertainment is necessary, which is why we are working with the Walmart AMP executive leadership team. We fully expect them to be involved in this project from now on.”
The market study the city commissioned last year ranked an amphitheater or performing arts center as the seventh-best use for the site. A stand-alone thermal water complex ranked first, but Hot Springs National Park Superintendent Laura Miller said last week that no process is in place to apply for access to the park’s thermal water.
The National Park Service’s Water Resources Division is studying how much water the park’s springs produce and how much is available for distribution. Water that doesn’t flow to bathhouses, display springs, public fountains, Levi Hospital and Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa goes into Hot Springs Creek. The study is examining the overflow’s importance to the creek’s ecosystem.
The Majestic Hotel was connected to the park’s thermal water distribution system, Miller said, but supply lines were removed after the February 2014 fire at the complex’s “yellow brick” building.
The market study ranked a hotel, public park, retail and restaurant elements as better uses than an amphitheater, which the study said is “financially infeasible” for the site. Wilson disagreed, saying his company wouldn’t risk its capital in an unprofitable venture.
“This is going to cost me, we estimate, between $12 million and $15 million,” he said. “I’m not going to invest $15 million in something that’s going to have to be subsidized. We have the business model that’s going to make it successful.”
Wilson asked the city to postpone putting out a third round of solicitations for the property, sign the purchase agreement and negotiate its involvement in the operation. The up to 90 days of negotiations is more for the city’s benefit than R.A. Wilson Enterprises, Wilson said.
“We’re willing to negotiate allowing city involvement, whatever that level of involvement is,” he said. “The city wants to control things. We need that time to try to work through whatever the city’s involvement is.”