DAVENPORT — As Eastern Iowa Community Colleges moves forward with a plan to sell the old Wacky Waters amusement park, the college’s board of trustees on Monday voted to lengthen the deadline a prospective buyer has to meet certain obligations.
With a voice vote, trustees approved giving the buyer until mid-October to obtain approval from Davenport officials to change the land’s designated use. Community college officials in June approved a contract to sell the 27 acres to Hawkeye Paving, Bettendorf, for $1.2 million. Extra time is needed to allow the buyer to “get all his ducks in a row” ahead of the sale, said Alan Campbell, a spokesman for the college.
Once a destination spot for summertime family outings in the Quad-Cities, Wacky Waters, at 8228 N. Fairmount St., officially closed in 2006 amid financial challenges. The land, acquired by Eastern Iowa Community Colleges in 2007 for $1.2 million with money from its foundation, was initially bought with the intention of building a larger emergency services training center to be used to practice water rescues.
The purchase initially raised the eyebrows of some critics, who questioned the investment strategy as the college system faced other pressing financial needs. College officials at the time said the move could open the door for grants to develop a larger training site for state and federal emergency agencies, a plan that never materialized.
The purchase was also instrumental for the construction of the Davenport Fire Department Training Center, which continues to be used to train the city’s firefighters. Before the land was bought, Davenport received a $400,000 state grant to build a burn tower and partnered with the college to find a suitable place to put it. The fire department’s training center was split off the original lot and acquired by the city in 2011, according to records with the Scott County Assessor’s Office.
So, why sell the land now?
Campbell, the college spokesman, said the area had been “underutilized” over the years. He said the college received a good offer based on its appraised value and decided to sell.
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“We had hoped that it would work out to be a more prosperous thing for us, but it just didn’t happen,” Campbell said.
As the old Wacky Waters rides — including a massive water slide and pirate ship — were removed, the space was eventually used for some of the college’s student training programs, including fire safety and environmental sciences. Campbell said those classes would continue to be offered at the community college’s other buildings.
The proceeds from the sale are to go toward the college’s fund for maintenance and building improvements, Campbell said.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye Paving has already taken steps to meet several pending conditions before the purchase is settled, including approval from Davenport officials to use the land for industrial purposes.
Last week, the matter came up for a public hearing with the city’s planning and zoning commission, the first step in a months-long process. Davenport officials noted that the proposal fits with other long-term land use plans the city has outlined. Beau Perkins, of Hawkeye Paving, told planning and zoning commission members that the company “plans to move our corporate headquarters out there and improve the property.”
The old Wacky Waters isn’t the only piece of real estate the college has recently decided to part with.
Earlier this summer, the college announced it would sell downtown Davenport’s historic Kahl Building, which the college received as a gift nearly 25 years ago, to an area real estate developer for $2 million. The developer purchased the building with plans to renovate the Capitol Theatre on the building’s ground floor, add commercial space and put in 70 apartments. That project is expected to finish by late 2019.