A Ferris wheel behind left field of Modern Woodmen Park could be taking people up over the riverfront by mid-June, making the ballyard a destination even when the Quad-Cities River Bandits are on the road.
The Davenport City Council approved a lease amendment Wednesday with Main Street Baseball, owner of the River Bandits, which will finance the purchase of the 90-foot ride. The city’s Levee Improvement Commission endorsed the move earlier in the day.
Karl Rhomberg, who sits on the levee commission called it Davenport’s “answer to the Eiffel Tower.” He was somewhat concerned by what was presented.
“This is far from what I was expecting,” he said. “I hope it can be done in the most aesthetic way possible in respect to historic LeClaire Park and the bandshell.”
Main Street managing partner David Heller made a presentation to the levee commission that included plans for a Ferris wheel out past left field, a carousel along the right field line where bounce houses and other kid-friendly activities will be located, as well as a zipline that will run from right field to left field.
“It is as beautiful a ball park as you’ll find anywhere in the country,” Heller told the levee commission. “It is not just a beautiful stadium and place to develop major league baseball players, but a focal point and gathering place for the community.
“We’ll get people for baseball,” he said. “I want to get them before games, on non-game days, all summer long.”
The Ferris wheel will be located on the left field flood protection berm. A concrete pad will be laid and the stadium’s fence will be moved back. Heller said the fence could be pushed back 10 feet to accommodate the ride.
The concrete pad could be laid in April. The Ferris wheel could by delivered in early June and ready to operate by the middle of the month.
Wanting to provide more attractions at the stadium, and considering that Quad-Citians had to drive up to three hours — to Des Moines or the Chicago suburbs — for an amusement park, Heller began exploring the possibility of a Ferris wheel. He learned Credit Island once had an amusement park, and that a Ferris wheel was suggested as part of RiverVision.
“That is what gained momentum as a draw,” he said.
Many minor league teams have small payments — some as low as $1 — as part of their lease agreements for municipal stadiums, Heller said, but they don’t provide for upgrades to those facilities. Main Street’s lease agreement with the stadium is for $300,000, with that money to be used for annual improvements to the stadium.
The $1 million pricetag for the Ferris wheel will be paid for over five years through the lease agreement approved by the city council.