In his never-ending search for ways to improve the ballpark experience, the owner of the Quad-Cities River Bandits is looking at a Ferris wheel and carousel as possible additions to the Davenport riverfront.
Dave Heller, president of Main Street Baseball, and City Administrator Craig Malin categorized the possibility of acquiring and installing amusement-park style rides at the ballpark in the 2013 season “an achievement.”
In other words, Heller and Malin said, too many in-progress details remain for them to speculate on a possible timeline or to confirm the new attractions are a certainty.
“We’re looking at them, absolutely,” Heller said Wednesday. “I’m not trying to be coy. I think everything is premature until it’s done.”
Malin said city officials are “exploring” the idea and considering how the city’s lease with Main Street Baseball might accommodate the expenses associated with buying and installing a Ferris wheel and carousel. The lease provides for improvements to the park, but the Davenport City Council would have to approve of any new plans for use of the riverfront.
The plan that is being pitched would place the amusement-park rides near Gaines Street and the Mississippi River — in the area of the ballpark commonly known as the Kids Zone.
A major detail that needs addressing, Heller said, is how to properly protect any new attractions from floodwater, which routinely makes its way across Gaines Street. While a majority of the park is protected by a floodwall, a portion of the Kids Zone remains vulnerable.
“Any attraction you get, it’s important you’re maximizing protection from flooding,” Heller said.
He also pointed out the city would have access to any amusement-park style additions for use during non-game times.
“If we do this, my vision has always been: Can we have two different entry points for the (Ferris) wheel?” he said.
Malin said city staff has been asked to consider ways a Ferris wheel and carousel could remain available for the city’s use when baseball games are not being played, saying a new access strategy would have to come into play.
Heller said he previously approached the city with an idea for a roller coaster on the riverfront, but city officials were not receptive. He said he also is considering adding a zip-line ride to Modern Woodmen, which would not require city money.
For an amusement-park experience, he said, Quad-Citians must travel about three hours, and he thinks the community would welcome a closer-to-home opportunity.
“A riverfront Ferris wheel would change the skyline of the region,” Heller said. “I think it would fill a void in the community, and it’s something people could get really excited about.”
Plus, he said, it would add a whole new dimension to the increasingly popular use of the ballpark’s sky deck, which recently was enclosed.
“We host wedding receptions, and we have this incredible view of the ballpark and the river on one side, and the Davenport skyline out the other side,” he said. “Imagine if the wedding party could step outside and enjoy a Ferris wheel or a carousel.
“Where else in the world can you find that?”