Magic Springs steps it up 

Have you seen the summer concert schedule at Magic Springs and Crystal Falls theme park in Hot Springs? That's basically the exact words Michael Marion, the general manager at Alltel Arena, enclosed in an e-mail to me recently, and when a music lover and venue operator of Marion's stature is impressed, you'd better know the lineup of Saturday evening shows is good. How about LeAnn Rimes on June 5 to start the music season? Hot pop star Michelle Branch following on June 12? Contemporary Christian singer Rebecca St. James and Casting Crowns on June 19? The beat goes on with kids' favorite Nikki Cleary, presented by RadioDisney, on June 26; country chart-toppers Tracy Byrd and Kellie Coffey on July 3; classic rock favorites Styx on July 10; country acts David Lee Murphy and Lee Roy Parnell with their "Paintin' the Town Tour"; the everlasting Grand Funk Railroad on July 24; the Southern Rock Allstars and Big Brother and the Holding Co. (Janis Joplin's band) on July 31; the Marshall Tucker Band on Aug. 7; Christian rockers Audio Adrenaline and Subseven on Aug. 14; and the theme park's Bluegrass Music Fest to close the season on Sept. 4. After a good opening season at the 5,000-seat Timberwood Amphitheatre last summer, Magic Springs general manager Vicki Berni and crew have taking the music up a notch, covering all likes. For the $39.95 season pass that gets customers in all summer to the ride and water park, the concerts are a free bonus. For another $5 at some concerts, you can secure a reserved seat; lawn seating is always free. That's averages to $3.40 a concert, Berni notes. "Each season that you're an operating venue and the talent knows about you, you hire one act and they'll pass the word around about your venue," Berni said. "Plus we had a good first season under out belt, and for this season we wanted to bring in quality acts to our area that are very affordable." Single-day admissions are $31.99 (you can see where the season pass is the way to go). Evenings after 5 p.m., for those just wanting to see a concert, admission is $19.95. Magic Springs officially opens Saturday, April 10, showing off its new, high-tech roller coaster, "The Gauntlet." I will not be getting close to it; I'll leave that for the kids, or the kids at heart who like to feel their hearts in their throats. With the types of concerts that Hot Springs as seen brought in to the new Summit Arena - Harry Connick Jr. is coming May 2 - and with the lineup scheduled for Magic Springs, entertainment in the Spa City is at an all-time high. The Arkansas Twisters indoor football fans poured out in big numbers to welcome a new season last week at Alltel Arena, topping the 10,000 mark, which was a higher attendance than any night last season. No doubt wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin had something to do with drawing that number, but the Twisters also obliged with an exciting 48-38 win. The Twisters are on the road this weekend, but the team's management has added a twist with road-game watch parties at the Twisters' designated restaurant: Tony Roma's just off Shackleford Road in west Little Rock. While the Twisters are playing Peoria beginning at 7 p.m., the hometown fans can enjoy the game and an all-you-can-eat spare ribs special. Show up early; space is limited. The Arkansas Travelers are opening their season on the road Thursday, April 8, and stay out of town for 10 days before the home opener: a rare Sunday opening game starting at 3 p.m. on April 18 at Ray Winder Field. That's followed by a 10:30 a.m. Monday game in which school children from around the area are invited to attend. The Travelers, the AA affiliate of the Anaheim Angels, finished last season somewhat on a roll, reeling off a string of wins and moving into first place with just days to play, before slumping in the final series against Midland and missing out on the playoffs. But many of those players, who were promoted to the Travs at the midpoint of the season, are starting the year off here, and hopes among management is that this will correlate into a fast start and perhaps a return to the top of the Texas League East Division. Call 664-1555 for season tickets or more information about the Travs. Two items, not even related, if you're reading this on Thursday, Aug. 8: You still may be able to get a ticket to the Willie Nelson show at Hot Springs' Summit Arena, starting at 7:30 p.m., but from the moment the concert went on sale, we're told, it was a huge hit. In Little Rock, author Mara Leveritt will speak at UALR's Dickinson Auditorium at 5 p.m. about the "West Memphis Three," the notorious murder case. The UALR Progressive Society is sponsoring the lecture and question-and-answer session.


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