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City approves Majestic sale for outdoor entertainment pavilion

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

Digital Rendering of the Amphitheater

Despite a last-minute bid placed by VIPA Hospitality on Sunday night to put a hotel at the site where The Majestic Hotel once sat, on Tuesday night the Hot Springs City Board of Directors approved the sale of the property to Rick Wilson, president of R.A. Wilson Enterprises, for an outdoor entertainment pavilion.

"I think a very important, and I think satisfying, resolve of this marvelous venue that's going to be created on the Majestic property is that our company, as a commercial real estate developer all over the country, vetted this project and the viability of it for over a year before we made our offer to the city to purchase the property and to develop it for this purpose and this purpose only," Wilson told The Post on Wednesday.

With an estimated 8 months of construction, Wilson said the projected completion date is Jan. 1, 2023.

"In addition to pique entertainment venues throughout the season — we estimate about 34, 35 — in addition to that there will be a variety of activities occurring at the venue," he said, naming everything from graduation ceremonies to blood drives to holiday extravaganzas. "We estimate there could be as many as 100 days a year there are activities. I hate to even say that number because at the Walmart Amp there's been more than that."

Wilson said they are "in negotiations" with the Walton Arts Center, who owns and operates the amphitheater in Rogers, Arkansas, to help operate the amphitheater in Hot Springs.

"The slang term is coattail development," Wilson said. "Once one thing gets started, then the coattail activity occurs. So, Hot Springs, I think, will be re-developed over the next 6-8 years as a direct result of this project."

One consistent possible issue posed on the project from the public is it will create even more of a parking crisis and traffic congestion in downtown Hot Springs. However, a traffic study from Peters and Associates Engineers, of Little Rock, revealed traffic begins decreasing in the area after 5 p.m., which is ideal for the events Wilson said will occur primarily at nighttime. Wilson also exemplified the World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade, which is held on Bridge Street in downtown, as being able to make-do with the existing parking when it brings in thousands of attendees.

"We won't develop a property unless we know people can reasonably access it, otherwise it would fail, and we know that," Wilson said.

The following is from the city's July 20 Board Report:

The Board passed an ordinance waiving the requirements for competitive bidding for the sale of the City property located at 101 Park Avenue, the former Majestic Hotel site, to R.A. Wilson Enterprises, Inc.

With the purchase of the 5.2-acre property for $2,163,128, with earnest money of $100,000, Rick Wilson, president of R.A. Wilson Enterprises, plans to construct an outdoor entertainment pavilion. The submitted site plan calls for a large stage for performing arts, concessions, tiered patron seating on the lawn and covered permanent seating. There is a due diligence period of 180 days, which may be extended up to 90 days if the buyer requires additional time to conduct the diligence review. The 6,000-seat venue will be similar to the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP), located in Rogers, Arkansas. The City requires that the property be developed for the purpose of the entertainment pavilion, and that the facility’s operator be obtained before the sale is finalized. The Walton Arts Center Council of Bentonville, Arkansas, which also operates AMP, has expressed interest in operating the venue, pending the due diligence findings.

This property, which is located at the intersection of Central, Park and Whittington avenues and once hosted one of the most famous hotels in the South, has undergone multiple reviews, studies, and has been the source of wide-ranging community input and ideas for its future use.

Parth Patel, who co-owns VIPA Hospitality with his father — the same company that recently purchased the Medical Arts Building to turn it into a hotel — told The Post earlier Tuesday they wanted to place a bid on the site because they may never get another chance to do so. The company also placed a bid on the site in 2019, but pulled out due to the uncertainties presented by the then-new COVID-19 pandemic, Patel said.

After the news broke Tuesday night that the city approved the sale to Wilson, Patel wrote the following on Facebook:

Thank you to the people of Hot Springs. We had a dream and unfortunately it didn't come true, but I was raised to try and achieve your dreams, set the bar high. I wish the new project of Mr. Wilson's great success. I hope it does wonders for our city and brings even a new beautiful chapter of Hot Springs.

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