There has been a recent wellspring of news pieces extolling the benefits of a proposed regional sports complex east of Hot Springs.
The basic idea, espoused by the city’s advertising and promotion commission, is to buy at least 175 acres previously owned by a vanadium mining company (UMETCO) and turn the area off U.S. 270 into a gleaming citadel of youth sports.
How gleaming? Talk is it would be one of the finest sports complexes in the South.
Tentative plans, according to Hot Springs Sentinel Record, include “a signature youth baseball field with ‘spectacular views’ at the top of the site; two multipurpose fields that would accommodate four regulation fields; a ‘fourplex’ youth baseball area that would be the central focus of the complex, with four youth baseball fields; a group gathering area next to a heavily wooded area that could contain soft trails and accommodate mountain biking, interpretive stations, wildlife blinds, day camp activities, small pavilions and picnicking; and a high-point lookout.”
I agree: this sounds awesome. And – wait – it gets even more awesome/new fangle-y.
According to THV 11, this complex would include fields for flag football and lacrosse. Lacrosse? That sport which struggles to attract more than 31 Twitter followers in the state’s largest city? Expect any lacrosse fields to be used much more by lacrosse-saavy Tennesseans and Texans than Arkansans.
The complex would cater to visitors from out of state, after all. It would serve a conduit or these potential tourists to be funneled to nearby activities and sites such as the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail, a collection of historic markers commemorating the city’s early role in spring training for professional baseball.
Let’s assume the Garland County powers that be get what they want and this regional sports mecca gets underway.
A major question looms: what does it portend for North Little Rock’s Burns Park?
The 1,700-acre park already includes a few sports complexes which host regional events.
Not to mention a 36-hole golf course, 36-hole disc golf course, soccer complex, tennis, trails, seasonal amusement park, archery range and a dog park.
The Burns Park baseball complex, just completed in 2012, includes nine fields. Its soccer complex includes 17 irrigated fields, 1,500 parking spaces, tournament lighting on one quadrant, pavilions, 135 acres of preserved wetland, a three-mile hike/bike trail and is home to the UALR women’s soccer team.
It has hosted the nation’s biggest events in youth soccer: the 2006 & 2002 US Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championships as well as the 2008 US Youth Soccer National Championships.
And let’s not forget about the softball complex, which throws some serious heat with:
- 20/30 regular play lighting
- 30/50 tournament play lighting
- Three window concession stand
- Five scorekeeper rooms
- Sports medicine room
- Over 1,000 lighted parking spaces with concrete walkways.
If the Hot Springs sports complex is built, will that town’s leaders start locking horns with their NLR counterparts in attempts to attract top regional youth sports tournaments?
Consider that in 2005 alone, more than 182,000 participants and spectators came to the Burns Park soccer complex. That’s a lot of tourist dollars – money that may soon go to Hot Springs instead of Little Rock and North Little Rock.