Originally Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013, 9:41 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 14, 2013, 9:39 am

Ferris wheel, carousel, zip line planned at Modern Woodmen Park

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

Photo: Photo illustration: Kermit Stevenson; Original photo: Gary Krambeck
This artistís rendering shows a 90-foot Ferris wheel on the Mississippi River behind left field at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport.

DAVENPORT -- Quad Cities River Bandits co-owner David Heller plans to spend more than a million dollars to bring more than just baseball fans to Modern Woodmen Park.

Plans for a 90-foot Ferris wheel, a carousel and a 300-foot zip line stretching across the 82-year-old city-owned ball field were approved Wednesday by the city's levee improvement commission and the Davenport City Council.

Mr. Heller said he believes Modern Woodmen Park would become the first ballpark in the nation where fans can zip over the field from behind first base to the left field wall.

"It is as beautiful a ballpark as any you'll see anywhere in the country, and it's right here in Davenport," he said.

"What the River Bandits have tried to do from the beginning is not just make this a beautiful baseball stadium, but really turn it into something where it is an integral part of this community, a gathering place of this community," Mr. Heller said.

"It's going to be complemented by movies we'll show on the big video board every Friday and Saturday night when the team is not in town," he said. "There will be a lot of good reasons to come to Modern Woodmen Park this summer."

Mr. Heller said the zip line and carousel could be running in May, with the Ferris wheel operating sometime in June.The improvements will make the ballpark an attraction seven days a week with or without a ballgame, he said.

"This does something wonderful for families," Mr. Heller said. "It provides affordable family fun and gives families something they can do Monday through Sunday all summer long and Saturday mornings when the farmer's market is happening."

The zip line will start near the first base area and cross the field into left field. TheFerris wheel will sit behind the stadium's concourse between the left field foul pole and the scoreboard. It will be on top of a berm to protect it from potential flooding, with the left field berm still accessible for seating.

"The Ferris wheel will be well north of a $1 million," Mr. Heller said. "Making that kind of investment, we want to make sure that it's flood protected."

Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, the levee commission chairman, said the Ferris wheel will draw visitors to the riverfront.He said it initially was suggested in 2004 as part of the city's RiverVision Plan.

"This was to be similar to the Chicago Navy Pier, which has as one of its key attractions a massive Ferris wheel," the mayor said.

"Our common objective was to draw residents and visitors alike to the riverfront for an informal experience that would draw them repeatedly and across all seasons," he said."These attractions will help draw people to the ballpark every day of the week instead of just on home game days."

Mayor Gluba said it's his vision to make Davenport's riverfront "the most magnificent and spectacular" on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Minneapolis.

"Davenport will finally have its answer to the Eiffel Tower," said levee commission member Karl Rhomberg.

The project will be paid through the city's lease agreement with the River Bandits.Mr. Heller said the team pays the city $300,000 a year as part of the agreement, with the city putting that money backinto the ballpark.

Davenport city manager Craig Malin said the city will own the Ferris wheel Mr. Heller is buying. The city annually will direct $220,000 of the lease payments to pay off the Ferris wheel over five years.

Mr. Heller said Ferris wheel rides would be in the $5 range, with discounts and family packages available.

"There's no amusement park anywhere nearby," he said. "There's no place people can have that kind of theme park experience."