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4 attractions top 1 million.

Hot Springs National Park Leads List

NINETEEN ENTERTAINment attractions in Arkansas exceeded 250,000 visitors in 1992, according to Arkansas Business' first ranking of the state's largest attractions.

Hot Springs National Park, which includes the city's bath house row and Mountain Tower, drew more than 1.5 million visitors last year to lead the list. More than 320,000 of those passed through Fordyce Bathhouse Visitors Center, which has undergone a $3.5 million restoration.

Besides the national park, three other attractions brought in more than 1 million visitors: Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and the Buffalo National River.

Arkansas' state parks dominate the list, with 14 entrants among the top 26.

Attendance will be down as much as 15 percent this year at Southland Greyhound Park, says Tom Blayney, vice president and general manager. He expects 1993 attendance to be about 1.2 million because the track is being hurt by nearby casinos on the Mississippi River.

"Our parent company, Delaware North Cos., has tracks across the country," Blayney says. "Where casinos have come in in the past, if they are very close, they will impact your business about 50 percent.

"We have not seen that quite yet although they are 35 miles away and there is only one boat. The second one opened about two weeks ago."

Blayney says 19 casino boats are planned on the Mississippi shore of the river in the next 18 months.

"The lure of the casinos, the fast action, the instant pay-out is encouraging to people," he says. "It sucks them dry."

The two casinos are saturating the West Memphis-Memphis area with advertising. Blayney says he lives about two miles from Southland's track and hears about four commercials for the casinos every day on his way home from work.

Southland is buying space on billboards situated along the road gamblers take as they leave the casinos.

"Quite frankly, though, they are broke when they leave the boat," Blayney says. "You can go down there with $500 in your pocket, and in 30 minutes you are going to be broke."

Southland hopes to convince the Arkansas General Assembly to allow the track to install video lottery games.

Country's Largest Outdoor Drama

The Great Passion Play and the other interdenominational attractions of the Elna M. Smith Foundation in Eureka Springs could be the state's fifth tourist site to draw 1 million visitors.

Glenn Artt, advertising and marketing director for the foundation, says he is confident the attractions drew at least 750,000 last year, but the total could be as high as 1 million. It is impossible to count everyone who visits some of the attractions, he says.

The play, an outdoor presentation of the last week of Jesus Christ's life, including his death, burial and ascension, should attract more than 300,000 visitors this year. Artt says the University of North Carolina's Institute of Outdoor Drama ranks the play as the largest outdoor drama in the country.

Other attractions on the 600 acres the foundation owns include a Bible Museum, a Sacred Arts Center, the New Holy Land, a Freedom Walk and the Christ of the Ozarks Statue.

"Our main objective here, in everything we do, is to lift up Christ," Artt says.

At least 250,000 people annually visit the statue, a seven-story sculpture of Jesus built almost 30 years ago. It is the only statue of its size in North America.

The Freedom Walk includes a 10-foot section of the Berlin Wall. An East Berliner wrote the 23rd Psalm in German on one portion of the wall, Artt says.

The New Holy Land is an elaborate on-going reconstruction of Biblical sites in Israel. There are New Testament and Old Testament sections included on the 2 1/2-hour bus tour. A full-scale reproduction of Moses' tabernacle in the wilderness was added this year, Artt says.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Business Rankings; amusement parks in Arkansas
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Oct 18, 1993
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Next Article:Financial fast break: fans will fill $30 million Bud Walton Arena to see Arkansas' big-money basketball program.

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