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Magic Springs enters summer with fresh look, faces.

Officials at magic springs amusement park are hoping fresh paint and fresh, smiling faces are the ticket to a successful summer season.

At the end of last summer, the management team at the Hot Springs park decided that rather than add a high-visibility ride, they would spruce up what was already there.

"Almost all the rides and buildings have been painted," says Cindy Landes, Magic Springs marketing director. "We think the park has a fresh, new look - almost brand new."

Landes says park management, led by owner Melvyn Bell, also vowed to bring back something Magic Springs had lost: friendly service.

"The park had gotten a lot of complaints that employees weren't friendly, courteous to visitors," Landes says. "So everybody was let go when the park closed at the end of the season last year. And only the people who were really, really good were hired back. It wasn't very many of them."

At the beginning of this season, the park raised salaries for its 300 summer employees - most of them teen-agers - to $5 an hour.

"That's more than kids can make at fast-food restaurants," Landes says. "We did it because we wanted to get the cream of the crop."

Landes says park managers also conducted three orientation sessions stressing friendliness and courtesy. She even videotaped staffers at work to show them their strengths and weaknesses.

"I think it made a big impression on the kids in showing them how important their attitudes are," Landes says. "It must have worked. Since we opened for Saturdays on April 22, we haven't gotten a single complaint."

Landes says the park's management team has rejuvenated from the top down, with Bell - who bought Magic Springs in 1986 - taking a hands-on role. Look for Bell to be at the park at least four days a week.

As an entrepreneur, Bell has had his irons in a lot of fires - not all of them bright burners. In the 1980s he secured a deal to lease Hot Springs' Bathhouse Row and promised to help revive the city's past splendor. But the stock market drop in 1987 sent Bell's fortunes - particularly his highly leveraged Environmental Systems Co. stock - into a spiral.

The financial status of Magic Springs also has been questioned, but Landes says the park "has never really lost money. It's just that there were always so many hands in the pot to get a share."

Also on the management team are Eric Bell, Melvyn Bell's son and the park's controller; Doug Story, the long-time director of operations; John Bryant, director of food services; Suzanne Holcomb, group sales manager; and Landes.

Bryant has been with Magic Springs just a year; Holcomb and Landes are brand new to their jobs, although Landes worked as summer help at the park throughout high school and college.

"I was here when the park first opened for part of a season in 1977 and for the first full season in 1978," Landes says.

Magic Springs recently dropped Combs & Co. as its advertising agency in favor of in-house advertising with Landes in charge.

"When you have an ad agency, they're just not as connected to you," Landes says. "By doing things in-house, we can be more in control."

Magic Springs advertises heavily - print, radio and television - not only in its core market of central Arkansas but also in what Landes calls the park's "growth market": northern Louisiana, eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma. Magic Spring touts itself as a bargain among amusement parks. Gate admission - $15 for adults, $13 for children ages 3-11, free to kids under 3 and $11 for senior citizens and groups - is good for almost all the rides and shows on the 800-acre park.

Magic Springs is open 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays.
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Title Annotation:Hot Springs, Arkansas amusement park
Author:Treadway, Tyler
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 12, 1995
Words:638
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