Storm leaves Hot Springs Convention Center on generator power for weeks

Storm leaves Hot Springs Convention Center on generator power for weeks

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The Hot Springs Convention Center is still running on generator power three weeks after severe storms damaged its electrical system, and it is coming with a hefty six-figure price tag.

“We do have some insurance, a $100,000 deductible, but I think when last we looked, the claim was over $700,000,” Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said.

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The convention center runs on three power sources, and all four exhibit halls in the middle of the space are affected. The outage happened overnight on April 10. It was only hours before each hall became packed with convention guests.

“We were scared to death. When you have large groups and you’re not sure you are going to have power for them,” Arrison said. “You have people with thousands of hotel rooms nights that have come in from out of town for a meeting or for a convention. You don’t have a choice. You can’t send everybody home.”

The lights-out problem found an expensive solution. A 1,200-gallon generator behind the building runs 72,000 square feet of event space 24 hours a day.

“About 15 to 17 days we’ve spent just about $30,000 just on fuel,” Visit Hot Springs director of operations Jennifer Wolcott said.

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Between renting the equipment and paying for fuel, utilities cost about $4875 a day or almost triple the normal $1,300-2,000 a day.

No events at the center have been canceled, even on the first day when portable lights helped a convention run.

Wolcott said the first repair option was projected to take 80 days. The second choice to replace the 1998 bus duct system with a modern conduit-based electrical current system will likely take half that time.

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The Convention Center is covering its deductible of $100,000 with some of its reserve funding all raised by the event space. Arrison said Visit Hot Springs will not have to request any public funds.

“Hopefully, within the next couple weeks, we’ll be back to normal,” Arrison said.

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