More than three weeks after the Quad-Cities River Bandits and city of Davenport had hoped to have a Ferris wheel erected and operational at Modern Woodmen Park, work for the base has begun.
A soggy spring and four Mississippi River floods made earthwork for the base impossible. Workers from Needham Excavation, of Walcott, have begun compacting the ground where the base will be located.
That work is expected to take about three months, Davenport Public Works director Mike Clarke said Thursday. Once that is done, pilings can be driven and concrete poured for the base. The Ferris wheel isn't likely to be put into place until next spring.
"When it is no longer settling, we can start construction," he said. "In a perfect world, it would be up and running. Now the goal is first pitch next year."
Earlier this year, the city and River Bandits announced they would partner on a 90-foot Ferris wheel behind left field, intending to start operation at a homestand ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend. Rain and a rising river put that plan on hold, first flooding in April and most recently early this month.
Dave Heller, president of Main Street Baseball, owner of the Quad-Cities River Bandits, finds the start of construction bittersweet.
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"We're very glad that the river has finally receded to the point where we can begin," he said. "We were anticipating that it would be in for this season and based on what the engineers were telling us and what we were telling our fans was that we anticipated the Ferris wheel being in this year.
"There is nothing I hate more than disappointing our fans for any reason. Hopefully, when the wheel is up and turning in April 2014, everyone will say it was worth waiting for."
While the Ferris wheel delay is disappointing, Heller said response to other amusements that have been added this year — a zipline, rock wall and Frog Hopper — has been positive.
"We are determined to make this ballpark a true treasure that is open and accessible and usable by the public all season long," he said.