Archive for October, 2015

College football: Week 9

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Razorback fans finally had a reason to celebrate.

Granted, this is a bad Auburn team. But it was a victory that had to occur if Arkansas was to have any hope of getting to six victories and making it to a minor bowl game.

Razorback teams have now played in four games of four overtimes or more. It was shades of the Houston Nutt era. Arkansas won in seven overtimes at Ole Miss in 2001, lost in six overtimes at Tennessee in 2002, won in seven overtimes at Kentucky in 2003 and won in three overtimes at LSU in 2007 in Nutt’s last game as Arkansas’ coach.

The previous overtime win at Fayetteville prior to last Saturday was against Alabama in 2006. Arkansas defeated Mississippi State in two overtimes at Starkville in 2010. In the Bielema era, the Hogs had lost twice to Texas A&M and once to Mississippi State in overtime.

Brandon Allen moved past Barry Lunney Jr. into sixth on the school’s career passing list as the Arkansas offense went 11 of 18 on third and fourth downs. Kody Walker and Drew Morgan scored two touchdowns each in overtime,

Now, it’s on to Tennessee-Martin. The recipe for Saturday afternoon in Fayetteville: Get the starters some good repetitions and don’t get anyone hurt.

We were 7-1 on the picks last week, going 7-0 on Saturday. The record for the season is now 51-13.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 9:

Arkansas 49, Tennessee-Martin 17 — Martin started its season with a 76-3 loss at Ole Miss. It won’t be that bad for the Skyhawks this week. The goal for them is to make sure Jeff Long hands over that big check. Martin is 5-2. Its other loss was 48-41 to Jacksonville State (which took Auburn to overtime). The victories were by scores of 72-10 over Bethel (an NAIA school), 31-17 over Tennessee Tech, 28-14 over Tennessee State, 44-14 over Austin Peay and 52-45 over Murray State. There’s not much more to say about this one as the Razorbacks tune up for the final stretch of four Southeastern Conference games.

Arkansas State 38, Georgia State 19 — The Red Wolves will have had 11 days to prepare for Saturday’s game in Jonesboro. They remained undefeated in conference play on Tuesday night of last week with a 37-27 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette at Jonesboro. ASU improved to 4-3 overall and 3-0 in the Sun Belt Conference, jumping out to a 27-0 lead in the second quarter against Louisiana-Lafayette. Georgia State has won only one game against a Sun Belt Conference opponent since joining the conference in 2013. Of the 16 losses, 10 have come by two touchdowns or more. This year the Panthers are 2-4 overall and 1-1 in Sun Belt play. The wins were by scores of 34-32 over New Mexico State and 31-19 over Ball State. The losses were by scores of 23-20 to Charlotte, 61-28 to Oregon, 41-33 to Liberty and 37-3 to Appalachian State.

UCA 28, Southeastern Louisiana 24 — It’s a Halloween homecoming at Conway as the Bears host Southeastern Louisiana. UCA improved its record to 4-3 overall and 4-1 in the Southland Conference last Saturday with a 35-17 win at Lamar. Blake Veasley rushed 49 times for 292 yards for the Bears, both single-game school records. He scored four touchdowns. The 49 rushes were the most for a player in an FCS game this season and the third most for any NCAA player in 2015. No. 1 on the list is a player from another Conway school — Dayton Winn of Division III Hendrix College with 52 carries. Southeastern has been up and down, bringing records of 4-3 overall and 3-2 in conference to Conway. The victories were by scores of 34-20 over Northwestern State, 28-17 over the Florida Institute of Technology, 30-27 over Lamar and 22-7 over Houston Baptist. The losses were by scores of 35-14 to Ohio, 21-7 to McNeese State and 28-27 to Stephen F. Austin.

Prairie View A&M 29, UAPB 6 — Things just keep getting worse for the Golden Lions, who are 1-6 overall and 0-5 in the SWAC. UAPB was listless last Saturday in a 37-3 loss at Jackson State. The Golden Lions were limited to 175 yards of offense in that one. The leading rusher for UAPB had only 27 yards. There’s not much hope against a Prairie View A&M team that is 4-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

Henderson 51, Southern Nazarene 13 — The Reddies remain alone atop the Great American Conference at 7-1 following a 29-28 win over Southern Arkansas last Saturday at Arkadelphia. Reddie quarterback Dallas Hardison from Bentonville ran six yards and dived into the end zone as time expired for the homecoming victory. The Reddies drove 94 yards for that score after stopping the Muleriders on fourth down. SAU decided not to kick the short field goal that would have given the visitors an eight-point lead. Hardison was 21 of 36 passing for 229 yards. This week, the Reddies will be able to toy with an 0-8 Southern Nazarene team as Henderson plays a second consecutive home game.

Ouachita 30, Oklahoma Baptist 23 — Ouachita is 9-0 in GAC play at Cliff Harris Stadium since the facility opened at the start of the 2014 season. The defending conference champions have struggled on the road this year, though. They’re 1-3 on the road and 5-3 overall. The good news for Ouachita is that Saturday’s game is at the place students like to call The Cliff. Ouachita won at home last week over UAM, 20-17, as freshman tailback Kris Oliver from Arkadelphia rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Brandon Marks of Prescott is out for the season, but Ouachita counters with two talented freshmen in Oliver and Donelle Hoof out of Texas. It’s OBU vs. OBU this week as Oklahoma Baptist has made the move up to NCAA Division II from the NAIA and joined the GAC. Oklahoma Baptist is 2-6 in its first year in the conference. The two schools last played each other in football in 1940.

Arkansas Tech 31, Northwestern Oklahoma 26 — The Wonder Boys have won six games for the first time since 2009. Tech went to 6-2 last Saturday with a 57-37 victory in Russellville over 3-5 Southeastern Oklahoma. The  Wonder Boys scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions. Northwestern is 3-5 but has the talent to pull the upset at home. Tech will try to remain one game behind Henderson while hoping that one of the two OBUs upsets Henderson in the final two weeks of the season.

Harding 37, Southwestern Oklahoma 27 — Harding is also 6-2 following an impressive 62-20 victory over East Central Oklahoma. The Bisons, with their double-slot offense, scored touchdowns on their first five possessions. Harding had 557 rushing yards, just 10 short of a school record. Harding has lost only to the two Arkadelphia schools, Ouachita and Henderson. Southwestern is 5-3 and capable of beating Harding at home. The Bulldogs upset Ouachita in Weatherford when the Tigers were ranked No. 9 nationally and later beat a good East Central Oklahoma team at home.

Southern Arkansas 22, Southeastern Oklahoma 16 — The 5-3 Muleriders are just one play away from being tied for the conference lead. Of course, they’re also only a couple of plays away from being 3-5 after narrow victories over Ouachita and Southwestern Oklahoma. Southeastern’s season has been one of streaks. It started with close losses to Henderson and Ouachita. That was followed by victories over Oklahoma Baptist, Southern Nazarene and Southwestern Oklahoma. The Savage Storm has lost the past three games to Northwestern Oklahoma, Harding and Arkansas Tech. Expect Saturday’s game in Durant to be close.

East Central Oklahoma 32, UAM 21 — The Boll Weevils travel to Ada, Okla., with a 1-8 record, having only defeated winless Southern Nazarene. East Central is 5-3, having given Henderson its only loss and Arkansas Tech one of its two losses.

 

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Rex’s Rankings: After eight weeks

Monday, October 26th, 2015

There are only two weeks remaining in the regular season in high school football.

Pine Bluff continues to sit atop the overall rankings at 8-0. After having shut out their previous four opponents by a combined score of 157-0, the Zebras struggled to a 34-27 victory at El Dorado on Friday night.

The Big Three in Class 7A in northwest Arkansas — Springdale Har-Ber, Fayetteville and Bentonville — won by respective scores of 38-0, 59-0 and 55-3.

The class of Class 7A outside of northwest Arkansas appears to be 8-0 Cabot, a 62-21 winner over Mountain Home on Friday night.

Undefeated Greenwood — a 42-0 winner over Siloam Springs — continues to stalk Pine Bluff in Class 6A. Coach Rick Jones has another great team poised to make a deep run into the playoffs.

Undefeated Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian remain on a collision course in Class 5A.

Meanwhile, you have to love a state in which the mascots for the top three teams in Class 4A are Sand Lizards, Scrappers and Lumberjacks while the mascots for the top two teams in Class 3A are Buckaroos and Curley Wolves.

We have some interesting mascots in Arkansas.

Here are the rankings after eight weeks of the high school football season:

Overall

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. Pulaski Academy
  4. Greenwood
  5. Cabot
  6. Fayetteville
  7. Bentonville
  8. Little Rock Christian
  9. Benton
  10. Bryant

Class 7A

  1. Springdale Har-Ber
  2. Cabot
  3. Fayetteville
  4. Bentonville
  5. Bryant

Class 6A

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Greenwood
  3. Benton
  4. Jonesboro
  5. Alma

Class 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Hot Springs Lakeside
  4. Blytheville
  5. Hope

Class 4A

  1. Dardanelle
  2. Nashville
  3. Warren
  4. Hamburg
  5. Malvern

Class 3A

  1. Smackover
  2. Prescott
  3. Harding Academy
  4. Greenland
  5. Little Rock Episcopal

Class 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Junction City
  3. Earle
  4. McCrory
  5. Des Arc

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College football: Week 8

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Razorback football fans finally got a Saturday off, allowing them to sit down in front of the television set and watch two Southeastern Conference showdowns.

On Saturday afternoon on CBS, Alabama returned three interceptions for touchdowns in a 41-23 victory at Texas A&M. A crowd of 105,733 looked on in College Station as Alabama’s Derrick Henry ran for a career-high 236 yards and two touchdowns. The three interceptions returned for touchdowns marked the first time that had happened in the long, glorious history of Alabama football. Alabama moved to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC while the Aggies fell to 5-1 and 2-1.

On Saturday night on ESPN, the Mad Hatter was back to his mad ways at LSU. A fake field goal with 10:40 left in the game broke a 28-28 tie, and LSU held on for a 35-28 victory over Florida. The play was executed perfectly and was LSU’s only touchdown in the second half. LSU is now 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the SEC. Florida fell to 6-1 and 4-1. Leonard Fournette remained atop the Heisman watch as he ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers. In 2010, LSU also beat Florida on a fake field goal. Someone should have warned the Gators’ new coach about the grass-eating Mad Hatter.

And who knew they played football at the University of Memphis (if you want to make a Tiger fan mad, just continue to call it Memphis State)? Good football. The Tigers’ 37-24 victory over Ole Miss was no fluke. Memphis is 6-0, has won 13 consecutive games and has the nation’s third-longest winning streak. It was the Tigers’ first victory over a ranked opponent since 1996. Ole Miss jumped to a 14-0 lead in the game’s first six minutes, but Memphis then scored 31 unanswered points. The crowd of 60,241 was the most for a game at the Liberty Bowl since 2006.

We were 6-1 on the picks last week to make the season record 44-12.

We have to get the picks out early for Week 8 since Arkansas State has another one of those silly Tuesday night games. So here goes:

Arkansas 27, Auburn 24 — Both teams have failed to live up to expectations. Auburn opened with a 31-24 victory in Atlanta over a Louisville team that has turned out to be weaker than most (certainly Bobby Petrino) were expecting and then struggled to beat Jacksonville State in overtime. That was followed by back-to-back losses of 45-21 to LSU and 17-9 to Mississippi State. The Tigers have improved their overall record to 4-2 since then with wins of 35-21 over San Jose State and 30-27 over Kentucky. Arkansas is the final SEC team to play a conference game at home. With the Hogs having had two weeks to prepare for Auburn, we’ll go with a hunch and give a slight advantage to the home team.

Louisiana-Lafayette 30, Arkansas State 28 — The Red Wolves are 3-3 overall, but they’re 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference play. They rallied at South Alabama last Tuesday night with a 29-point fourth quarter en route to a 49-31 victory. The Red Wolves trailed 31-20 with 13:12 remaining before scoring four touchdowns — including two by the defense — in a 5:17 span. What worries us about the Red Wolves is a lack of consistency. Louisiana-Lafayette is 2-3 overall and 1-0 in conference play. The Ragin’ Cajuns used a 28-point third quarter on Oct. 10 to break away from a halftime tie and beat Texas State, 49-27. The nonconference win was by a score of 44-17 over Northwestern State from the Southland Conference. The nonconference losses were by scores of 40-33 to Kentucky, 35-14 to Akron and 43-14 to Louisiana Tech. We’ll give the edge to Louisiana-Lafayette since it has won the past two meetings (both on Tuesday night) between the two schools, including a 55-40 victory last year.

Jackson State 19, UAPB 17 — The Golden Lions continue to struggle. They fell to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the SWAC with a 31-24 loss in Pine Bluff last Thursday night to Alabama State. Jackson State isn’t much better — 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the in the SWAC. Jackson State’s lone victory came by a score of 34-20 over Texas Southern in Jackson. The losses have come at the hands of Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee State, Southern University, Grambling State and Alabama A&M. We’ll give Jackson State the nod since it’s the homecoming game in Jackson.

UCA 31, Lamar 22 — The Bears had a chance to be alone in first place in the Southland Conference and played well for three quarters before a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Conway last Saturday night. With UCA leading in the fourth quarter, an errant snap hit a Bear receiver who was in motion. McNeese State scooped the ball up and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys a 14-13 lead that they never relinquished. McNeese went on to win by a final score of 28-13, improving its record to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in conference. UCA is 3-3 overall and 3-1 in conference. The Bears travel this week to Beaumont, Texas, to take on a Lamar team that’s 3-3 overall and 2-2 in conference. Lamar’s wins have come by scores of 66-3 over tiny Bacone College, 49-46 over Sam Houston State and 44-28 over Abilene Christian. The losses have been by scores of 66-31 to Baylor, 30-27 to Southeastern Louisiana and 48-35 to Northwestern State.

Henderson 25, Southern Arkansas 21 — Two weeks ago, there were five teams tied for the Great American Conference lead. They were Henderson, Ouachita, Arkansas Tech, Harding and East Central Oklahoma. Now, Henderson (which won conference titles in 2012 and 2013) stands alone atop the GAC at 6-1. The Reddies, whose defense gets better each week, won 41-3 at 1-6 UAM last Saturday afternoon. Jaquan Cole rushed 16 times for 157 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run. Henderson had 420 yards of offense and limited UAM to 254 yards. Southern Arkansas, which has its best team in a number of years, improved to 5-2 with a 32-28 win over the defending conference champions from Ouachita in the Murphy USA Classic at El Dorado. The Muleriders have a talented redshirt freshman quarterback named Barrett Renner, who was 23 of 27 passing for 383 yards against Ouachita. Renner threw a 16-yard touchdown pass as the Muleriders took their first lead of the day with just 37 seconds remaining in the game. Southern Arkansas has the talent to beat Henderson. But we’ve been impressed by the Reddie defense, and this game is at home in Arkadelphia. We’re starting to think Henderson will finish the regular season 10-1 and capture its third outright title in four years.

Ouachita 42, UAM 29 — Two weeks ago, the defending champions appeared to be on their way to at least a share of their third GAC title since 2011. Ouachita had just defeated a Harding team that was No. 12 in the country at the time, and the Tigers were 4-1. But the Ouachita defense has been bad the past two weeks in losses to Arkansas Tech and Southern Arkansas. After Southern Arkansas scored with 37 seconds left last week, the Ouachita offense drove to the Mulerider 12 in six plays. A pass into the end zone on the final play of the game fell incomplete. It was the kind of close game Ouachita would have won a year ago when it went undefeated in the regular season. The welcome news for the Tigers, who are 1-3 on the road this season, is that the next two games are at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. Ouachita is 8-0 in regular-season games at The Cliff since the stadium opened at the start of the 2014 season.

Harding 35, East Central Oklahoma 33 — This should be an outstanding game between two 5-2 teams that are trying to stay alive in the conference race. East Central knocked Arkansas Tech out of a share of the conference lead with a 20-19 victory over the Wonder Boys in Ada last Saturday afternoon. Harding started 4-0 before back-to-back losses to the two Arkadelphia schools, Ouachita and Henderson. It was almost a third consecutive loss last Saturday, but the Bisons held on to defeat Southeastern Oklahoma in four overtimes at Durant, 63-60. Harding lost a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and Southeastern (3-4) tied the game with 12 seconds left in overtime. We’ll give the advantage to the home team. The game is in Searcy.

Arkansas Tech 26, Southeastern Oklahoma 20 — The Wonder Boys started the season 4-0 but have come back to earth a bit with losses in two of their past three games. Southeastern is 3-4 but could just as easily be 5-2 like the Wonder Boys. The Savage Storm is capable of winning in Russellville on Saturday afternoon, but we’ll go with Tech due to a stout defense that’s the best in the GAC along with Henderson.

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Rex’s Rankings: After seven weeks

Monday, October 19th, 2015

It might have been the game of the year thus far in Arkansas high school football.

Fuller Chandler threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Trey Smith with just six seconds remaining in the game, and Springdale Har-Ber defeated Fayetteville by a final score of 47-43 in Springdale. We had Fayetteville ranked No. 2 in the state and Har-Ber No. 3 coming into the game.

Just two weeks ago, Har-Ber was No. 9. But that was before back-to-back victories over Bentonville (31-21) and Fayetteville.

Meanwhile, No. 1 Pine Bluff recorded its fourth consecutive shutout with a 35-0 victory over Little Rock Hall. The Zebras have outscored their past four opponents 157-0.

Here are the rankings after seven weeks of the high school football season:

Overall

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. Pulaski Academy
  4. Greenwood
  5. Cabot
  6. Fayetteville
  7. Bentonville
  8. Little Rock Christian
  9. Benton
  10. Sylvan Hills

Class 7A

  1. Springdale Har-Ber
  2. Cabot
  3. Fayetteville
  4. Bentonville
  5. Bryant

Class 6A

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Greenwood
  3. Benton
  4. Alma
  5. Jonesboro

Class 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Sylvan Hills
  4. Hot Springs Lakeside
  5. Batesville

Class 4A

  1. Dardanelle
  2. Nashville
  3. Pulaski Robinson
  4. Warren
  5. Hamburg

Class 3A

  1. Smackover
  2. Prescott
  3. Lamar
  4. Camden Harmony Grove
  5. Harding Academy

Class 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Junction City
  3. Earle
  4. McCrory
  5. Des Arc

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Back downtown in the Spa

Friday, October 16th, 2015

I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about downtown Hot Springs on this blog the past few years.

As noted in those pieces, I believe that the stretch of Central Avenue north from Grand to Whittington/Park is the most iconic stretch of street in our state.

I was embarrassed as an Arkansan that we had allowed what should be one of the great downtowns in America to deteriorate.

Finally, it seems there’s some momentum in the Spa City.

Several hundred people gathered on the top floor of the Exchange Street Parking Plaza on a warm Thursday night earlier this month for the release of a long-awaited downtown development plan.

Just two days earlier, it was reported that Harrison Construction Co. took out a building permit valued at almost $5.7 million for work on the Thompson Building, which is across Central Avenue from Bathhouse Row. The five-story building, constructed in 1913, is being transformed into a 62-room boutique hotel by Bob Kempkes, Anthony Taylor and Robert Zunick. It will supply downtown with badly needed upscale hotel rooms.

The day after the release of the downtown development plan, it was reported that Tennessee-based real estate investor Gary Gibbs (the same guy developing the Delta Resort & Conference Center in southeast Arkansas) closed on the purchase of the Austin Convention Hotel & Spa, a facility connected to the Hot Springs Convention Center that needs lots of improvements.

It all signifies that there’s momentum in polishing what should be the jewel of Arkansas.

The report by economic development consulting firm Thomas P. Miller & Associates of Indianapolis calls for:

— Focusing on infrastructure improvements to upgrade aesthetics, walkability and livability downtown.

— Enhancing and adding amenities and mixed-used developments that are designed to meet the needs and expectations of visitors, residents and business owners.

— Embracing a more experimental, nimble and responsive approach to old policies and ways of doing business.

— Improving the physical and social connectivity between the businesses and residents of the central business district and surrounding neighborhoods.

— Promoting collaboration for downtown initiatives among key stakeholder groups and engaging millennials in the decision-making process.

— Nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.

— Targeting business recruitment, retention and expansion to key industry sectors.

— Empowering local action in accelerating broadband access, adoption and application.

— Using downtown as a laboratory for work-based learning and skills training for the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts and area secondary and post-secondary students.

— Creating a niche of retailers and allied amenities to serve as a trailhead for adventure tourists.

A major part of the economic development study dealt with the redevelopment of the Majestic Hotel site.

“Perhaps no other issue stimulated as much discussion and input in every public forum, focus group and one-on-one interview as what should happen with the site currently occupied by the remains of the Majestic Hotel,” the consultants wrote. “For many, the memories of the former glory of this downtown gathering place were a touch point for seeing the site revitalized to play a new, significant role in downtown’s future. For others, especially the younger or newer members of the community, the memory of the 2014 fire and its resulting rubble prompted a call to action for a swift redevelopment of the site.

“Hot Springs has a unique opportunity to leverage the redevelopment of this site to make a contribution to the physical, social and economic welfare of downtown for decades to come. Due to its size, location and prominence, the future of this site will set the tone for redevelopment activities throughout downtown, serve as a catalyst for additional public and private invesments, and present an opportunity to build on the impact of the tourism sector, which is of importance to the economic prosperity of downtown Hot Springs.

“Smart redevelopment of the site is critical to achieving all three of the plan’s goals. The physical impact on the quality of place downtown and its adjoining neighborhoods is obvious. However, what may be less obvious is the importance of ensuring that the redevelopment enhances the sense of community in Hot Springs, enriches connections to neighborhoods and drives economic development through cultural, retail attraction and other amenities that will create employment, spawn innovation and generate revenue.”

An average of 14,000 motorists a day pass the site.

The consultants note: “From a visual standpoint, this site serves as both the northern terminus of the central business district and a gateway into downtown. The remains of the former hotel (even in its current condition) are the focal point for both motorists and pedestrians traveling north along Central Avenue. This site is located adjacent to one of downtown’s most significant assets, the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, a destination high school for gifted students from across the state. To the northeast, the shuttered Velda Rose Hotel & Spa was recently placed on the market, and across Park Avenue there are two large surface parking lots. Opposite the Majestic site and the high school campus are several businesses, including a new coffee shop that symbolizes the youthful energy permeating downtown.

“To the south of Central Avenue, there are numerous eateries, nightspots and other attractions frequented by visitors, including galleries, museums and an aquarium. Several redevelopers have announced plans for upper-floor conversions of vacant spaces into boutique hotels and housing in the immediate area. The historic significance of the hotel itself cannot be understated. As the first brick building in Hot Springs and one of the first buildings in Arkansas to feature an elevator, the older portions of the hotel and its additions featured spectacular architecture, art and therapeutic thermal waters that helped attract the famous and infamous to Hot Springs throughout the last century. Understanding the site’s role in history is an important consideration for the reuse of this location.”

During public meetings, dozens of potential uses for the site were suggested. The consultants came to the conclusion that the site could best be used for a performing arts center, outdoor amphitheater and public bathing facility.

They wrote: “Hot Springs lacks a quality indoor performance venue with the modern amenities required to attract traveling Broadway shows, large-scale music performances and other acts that would pump entertainment dollars into the local economy and provide an evening market for downtown eateries and nightlife. The venue should include a large theater/performance hall as well as one or more small theatrical performance venues for use by community theater troupes and local schools.

“Funding for this venue will likely require investment by a variety of sources, including federal, state and local public funds; foundation support; and private contributions. A feasibility study and finance plan should be commissioned to assess the necessary financial support required to get such a project off the ground.”

The outdoor amphitheater would complement the indoor performance space. It could be the home of everything from community theater productions to movies under the stars.

Of the proposed public bathing facility, the consultants wrote: “The addition of such a facility on the grounds of a performing arts center would attract day and evening visitors year-round. Concepts for similar facilities have been developed in the past for other nearby locations; however, the redevelopment of the Majestic site presents an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to experience firsthand what led the native tribes to name this area the Valley of the Vapors. The facility could be developed and managed by the city, the space could be leased to a developer who would build and manage the attraction or the city could possibly even explore a partnership arrangement with the National Park Service.”

The consultants also said Hot Springs should consider some type of sign downtown that would become as iconic as the Public Market sign in Seattle or the star in Roanoke.

Among the more interesting proposals in the report is a call for the removal of about 70 parking spots along Central Avenue. Those spaces would be replaced by bike paths and have the added benefit of making the shops and restaurants more visible to motorists on Central Avenue.

The consultants wrote: “One of Hot Springs’ greatest assets is its compact downtown district. A national park nestled within the central business district, four distinct urban neighborhoods, a prestigious high school, the convention center, the trailhead for the Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail and a number of hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions all call downtown Hot Springs home. Like most downtowns, Hot Springs has a variety of architectural styles representing different periods in the city’s history. Unlike many downtowns, though, the architecture in Hot Springs is especially interesting due to the unusual collection of bathhouses on Bathhouse Row, an art deco high-rise structure that was once the tallest building in the state and several large structures such as the Arkansas Career Training Institute and the Arlington Hotel, which dominate the view from several vantage points along the downtown streets. These architectural wonders can only be effectively appreciated by pedestrians or cyclists moving at a slower pace with unencumbered views.”

In an attempt to revitalize the largely empty upper floors of downtown buildings, the consultants recommended that Hot Springs create property development incentives, a landlord registration process and a marketing strategy for professional office space.

So much potential.

So much still to be done.

But so much progress in getting the people of Hot Springs to focus on downtown.

The February 2014 fire that destroyed the oldest portion of the building that once housed the Majestic galvanized public opinion around the need to do something.

It also opened the eyes of people across the state to the fact that the historic buildings in downtown Hot Springs are national treasures that are in danger of being lost due to years of neglect.

“Determining what is feasible before choosing a path of redevelopment for the Majestic site will be a signal to all area residents and visitors that progress is occurring in Hot Springs,” the consultants concluded. “Those who have never visited Hot Springs will see the former site as a blight full of potential and question why the potential hasn’t been seized, while residents see the site as a constant reminder of the city’s descent from its heyday. Development on the site — or even temporary signs describing its impending development, be it for a performing arts center, a modern public thermal bath or any number of options — will be the lynchpin showing that downtown Hot Springs is on its way back.”

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College football: Week 7

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

It’s the most anticipated weekend of the season for Razorback fans — the open date.

The Hog faithful can go about their business this Saturday without the frustration of following a team that has won just three Southeastern Conference games since the start of the 2013 season.

As predicted in this space last week, Arkansas hung around for three quarters in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. A Jake Coker to Calvin Ridley touchdown pass that covered 81 yards combined with a failed Arkansas fake punt attempt to propel the Tide to a 13-point victory.

Alabama outgained the Hogs, 396-220.

Bright spots?

Well, Alabama’s lowest previous point total this season had been 34 points.

The Tide ended Alex Collins’ streak of three 150-yard rushing games. Collins finished with just 26 yards on 12 carries. Alabama outrushed Arkansas, 134-44.

We must post the predictions early this week since Arkansas State has one of those strange Tuesday night games. The Red Wolves have another one next week.

College football games should NOT be played on Tuesday nights.

Yes, I’m a traditionalist.

Last Saturday in the Great American Conference started with five teams tied for the conference lead. Henderson, Arkansas Tech, Harding, Ouachita and East Central Oklahoma all had 4-1 records.

Now there are just two teams tied for the conference lead — Henderson and Tech.

Henderson beat Harding in Searcy.

Tech beat Ouachita in Russellville.

East Central lost at Southwestern Oklahoma.

We were 4-2 for the week, making the record 38-11 for the season.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 7 of the college football season:

Arkansas State 30, South Alabama 29 — The two teams appear evenly matched for this Tuesday night game. Arkansas State opened the season with losses to USC and Missouri. A 30-point loss to Toledo was sandwiched between victories over bad Missouri State and Idaho teams. So the Red Wolves are 2-3 overall. South Alabama is 3-2 with wins of 33-23 over Gardner-Webb, 34-27 over San Diego State and 24-18 over Troy. The losses came by scores of 48-9 to Nebraska and 63-13 to North Carolina. We’ll give a slight edge to the Red Wolves since quarterback Fredi Knighten, who hasn’t played since the third quarter of the loss to Missouri on Sept. 12, is expected to start tonight.

Alabama State 17, UAPB 15 — In a Thursday night game at Pine Bluff, a 2-4 Alabama State team takes on a 1-4 UAPB squad. Both schools obviously need a victory. Alabama State’s wins have been by scores of 45-15 over Mississippi Valley State and 41-23 over Texas Southern. The losses have come to Tennessee State, Alcorn State, Grambling State and Southern University. UAPB has struggled all season with losses to South Carolina State, Texas Southern, Alabama A&M and Alcorn State. The only victory has come against an NCAA Division II team, Morehouse College, and even that wasn’t easy.

McNeese State 28, UCA 18 — There will be a Southland Conference showdown in Conway on Saturday night as UCA (3-2, 3-0) hosts McNeese State (5-0, 3-0). McNeese likely wouldn’t be undefeated had its opener at LSU not been called off due to persistent thunderstorms. The Cowboys have been impressive since then with victories of 43-6 over Incarnate Word, 28-14 over Stephen F. Austin, 37-0 over Mississippi College, 37-7 over Nicholls and 21-7 over Southeastern Louisiana. UCA stayed undefeated in conference play last Saturday afternoon with a 43-7 victory at Houston Baptist. In his second start at quarterback for the Bears, Hayden Hildebrand threw four touchdown passes and had 274 yards through the air. He’s filling in for senior Taylor Reed from El Dorado, who has a shoulder injury.

Ouachita 32, Southern Arkansas 31 — This is a tossup. Both teams are 4-2 and in need of a victory to stay alive in the Great American Conference race. And the game is at a neutral location in El Dorado as the annual Murphy USA Classic is played at old Memorial Stadium. Southern Arkansas posted a 38-20 victory last Saturday over Oklahoma Baptist. The Muleriders had 378 yards of offense and limited Oklahoma Baptist to 151 yards. Ouachita was coming off an emotional victory over Harding (which was ranked No. 12 nationally at the time) but laid an egg in Russellville. An Arkansas Tech freshman named Bryan Allen from Forrest City rushed for 279 yards against the Tigers. It was Tech’s first win over Ouachita since 2007 and its first victory over a nationally ranked opponent (Ouachita came in at No. 20) since the 2009 Division II playoffs.

Henderson 39, UAM 13 — Based on their schedule, the 5-1 Reddies have a good chance of coming into the Battle of the Ravine at 9-1 with a share of the GAC title already secured. Henderson scored with less than eight minutes remaining to come from behind and beat Harding in Searcy, 22-17. The road game will be much easier this Saturday afternoon. UAM started the season 0-5 but got homecoming relief in Monticello last Saturday in the form of a Southern Nazarene team that has now lost 28 consecutive games. UAM won by a score of 51-10 as quarterback Hunter Leppert passed for 398 yards. Reality will return for Leppert this week against a stout Henderson defense.

Harding 27, Southeastern Oklahoma 24 — Harding started the year 4-0 and was climbing each week in the national rankings before running into the teams from Arkadelphia, Ouachita and Henderson. Now the 4-2 Bisons are fighting to stay alive in the GAC race and must go on the road to play a decent Southeastern Oklahoma team. Southeastern is 3-3 following a surprise 31-16 loss at Northwestern Oklahoma last Saturday.

East Central Oklahoma 19, Arkansas Tech 16 — Tech has been the surprise of the conference thus far, rolling to a 5-1 record with the only defeat being at Henderson. The Wonder Boys’ defense ranks alongside Henderson as one of the two best defenses in the GAC. And quarterback Arsenio Favor, a transfer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has given the offense a spark that was missing last year. The Wonder Boys, though, are due a letdown following their homecoming victory over Ouachita. East Central was upset at Southwestern Oklahoma, 38-31, but remains in the top tier of GAC teams.

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Rex’s Rankings: After six weeks

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Pine Bluff keeps getting stronger.

The Zebras recorded their third consecutive shutout Friday night with a 40-0 victory over Lake Hamilton. Pine Bluff has outscored its previous three opponents by a combined score of 122-0.

Fayetteville also keeps getting stronger.

The Purple Dogs toyed with Springdale en route to a 70-21 victory last Friday night.

So our top two teams remain the same.

Springdale Har-Ber, however, vaults to No. 3 overall after its 31-21 victory over Bentonville.

Here are the rankings after six weeks of the high school football season:

Overall:

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Fayetteville
  3. Springdale Har-Ber
  4. Pulaski Academy
  5. Greenwood
  6. Cabot
  7. Bryant
  8. Little Rock Christian
  9. Benton
  10. Bentonville

Class 7A

  1. Fayetteville
  2. Springdale Har-Ber
  3. Cabot
  4. Bryant
  5. Bentonville

Class 6A

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Greenwood
  3. Benton
  4. Searcy
  5. Alma

Class 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Sylvan Hills
  4. Hope
  5. Hot Springs Lakeside

Class 4A

  1. Dardanelle
  2. Nashville
  3. Pulaski Robinson
  4. Warren
  5. Hamburg

Class 3A

  1. Smackover
  2. Prescott
  3. Lamar
  4. Camden Harmony Grove
  5. Harding Academy

Class 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Junction City
  3. Earle
  4. McCrory
  5. Des Arc

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College football: Week 6

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

It took until October, but we finally had a weekend when the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University and the University of Central Arkansas all won.

Our record for the year is 34-9, which is not bad. But the percentage would be so much better if we could figure out the Hogs.

We picked them to beat both Toledo and Texas Tech. They lost, of course.

We picked them to lose to Tennessee. You know what happened in Knoxville.

And as far as undefeated college football teams in Arkansas, “then there were none.”

Arkansas Tech and Harding went to Arkadelphia last Saturday with 4-0 records.

Ouachita dealt Harding a 26-21 defeat at Cliff Harris Stadium. Harding is now 16-2 in its previous 18 Great American Conference games with the only two losses having come at the hands of the team it wants to beat most, the Baptists from Ouachita.

A few hours later on the other side of U.S. Highway 67, Henderson beat Tech, 17-7.

Of course, I picked both Harding and Tech last week, leading to a 5-3 record overall.

So we now have five teams from the 12-team GAC tied for the conference lead with 4-1 records — Ouachita, Henderson, Harding, Arkansas Tech and East Central Oklahoma.

At the end of the day Saturday, there will be three teams at most at the top.

There are two huge games: Ouachita at Tech and Henderson at Harding. I expect both games to be close.

With that said, let’s get to the picks for Week 6:

Alabama 35, Arkansas 24 — Something tells me that Arkansas will hang around for at least three quarters in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night now that the SEC road game monkey is off the Razorbacks’ back. The 24-20 victory at Tennessee was the first SEC road win in the Bielema era. It was also the first time Arkansas had won a game decided by seven points or less in the Bielema era. Arkansas is now 1-9 in such games under its head coach. Alex Collins and Drew Morgan were impressive. Collins rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He has topped 150 yards rushing in three consecutive games. Morgan had five catches for 110 yards, his second consecutive 100-yard game. Brandon Allen was 11 of 24 passing for 219 yards. The Arkansas defense held Tennessee to 133 rushing yards (115 less than the season average coming into the game), and Arkansas led in second-half time of possession 21:57 to 8:03. That said, Bama looked like the Bama championship teams of old between the hedges in Athens on Saturday afternoon en route to a 38-10 spanking of previously undefeated Georgia. The Bulldog coaches even yanked starting quarterback Greyson Lambert late in the first half. The Tide led 24-3 at halftime and then returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown to start the second half. Alabama looked like a team that belongs in college football’s final four.

UCA 39, Houston Baptist 20 — The Bears finally got to play at home and responded with a 42-14 victory over Abilene Christian to even their season record at 2-2. The most important thing, though, is that they’re now 2-0 in the Southland Conference. UCA led 32-0 in the second quarter and never looked back. Houston Baptist opened the season with a 51-7 victory over tiny Bethany College from Kansas and then lost 34-10 to Northern Colorado, 49-21 to Abilene Christian and 63-14 to Sam Houston State. Those three losses were followed last Saturday by a 65-0 victory over College of Faith, which (best as I can determine) is a correspondence school in West Memphis that happens to field a football team. It’s at best a club team. I’m not sure why the NCAA allows games against the school to count. At any rate, Houston Baptist must face a real team in Houston this Saturday afternoon.

Ouachita 28, Arkansas Tech 21 — Ouachita trailed Harding 14-3 early but scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:40 left in the game on a pass from Malvern’s Austin Warford to Searcy’s Johnathan Powell. The Tigers then added a safety for the 26-21 victory. Last year after an overtime victory over Harding, the Tigers struggled to beat Tech at home. The Wonder Boys started the season 4-0 under the leadership of a transfer quarterback named Arsenio Favor, who came to Tech from the University of Alabama at Birmingham when UAB dropped football. Favor is 6-3, 240 pounds. He struggled last week against a Henderson defense that has only allowed seven points in the previous eight quarters. This is a tough one to pick. It will probably come down to which team has the fewest turnovers.

Harding 30, Henderson 27 — Another GAC showdown, and another tough pick. We’ll give the slight edge to Harding since the Bisons are home. Harding gave Henderson its first of two losses last year (the other was to Ouachita), and its double-slot offense remains dangerous. Henderson, which was a passing team when Kevin Rodgers was quarterback from 2012-14, is now more of a running team. Jaquan Cole rushed for 245 yards on 27 carries for the Reddies in the win over Tech. Henderson had 390 yards of offense, and 305 yards of it came on the ground. Henderson’s defense is vastly improved from last year. Tech had 323 yards of offense, far below its average of 482.5 yards in the first four games.

UAM 41, Southern Nazarene 38 — The Boll Weevils are 0-5 following a 56-28 loss to 1-4 Oklahoma Baptist, the conference’s newest member. Southern Nazarene, meanwhile, has lost 27 consecutive games. Somebody has to win. We’ll give the Weevils the edge since it’s their homecoming game.

Southern Arkansas 34, Oklahoma Baptist 25 — The Muleriders are 3-2 following their 55-20 win at Southern Nazarene. Oklahoma Baptist will provide a bit more of a challenge for SAU, which began the season with victories over Southwestern Oklahoma and Northwestern Oklahoma before falling to Harding (giving up 70 points in that one) and Arkansas Tech.

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Rex’s Rankings: At the halfway point

Monday, October 5th, 2015

We’ve reached the halfway point in the high school football season, and the cream appears to have risen to the top.

All of our Top 10 teams won last Friday. And all of them won by double-digit margins.

Fayetteville and Bentonville are the class of Class 7A.

Who can challenge Pine Bluff in Class 6A? Greenwood, of course.

Who can challenge Pulaski Academy in Class 5A? Little Rock Christian.

Let’s get to the rankings:

Overall

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Fayetteville
  3. Bentonville
  4. Pulaski Academy
  5. Greenwood
  6. Cabot
  7. Bryant
  8. Little Rock Christian
  9. Springdale Har-Ber
  10. Benton

Class 7A

  1. Fayetteville
  2. Bentonville
  3. Cabot
  4. Bryant
  5. Springdale Har-Ber

Class 6A

  1. Pine Bluff
  2. Greenwood
  3. Benton
  4. El Dorado
  5. Alma

Class 5A

  1. Pulaski Academy
  2. Little Rock Christian
  3. Sylvan Hills
  4. Hope
  5. Hot Springs Lakeside

Class 4A

  1. Dardanelle
  2. Nashville
  3. Pulaski Robinson
  4. Warren
  5. Malvern

Class 3A

  1. Smackover
  2. Prescott
  3. Lamar
  4. Camden Harmony Grove
  5. Harding Academy

Class 2A

  1. Rison
  2. Junction City
  3. Earle
  4. McCrory
  5. Des Arc

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