Baseball season is upon us, and the season home opener for the Quad Cities River Bandits team is just days away. And the River Bandits' home field is in store for more than a million dollars in upgrades this year.
The biggest project on tap for the city-owned ball field at Modern Woodmen park in Davenport: a 90-foot tall Ferris wheel, with twenty gondolas and a stellar view of the park and river.
It will go up on the berm behind left field, on the same level as the score board to protect it from flooding.
The City Council agreed on that site Tuesday, opening the door to go ahead with final designs and construction.
"We'll have our fantastic, beautiful Mississippi River in the background. It will be an iconic structure where families can enjoy the river and the Quad Cities. And what a great opportunity this is for Davenport to bring more tourists to our community!" Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said.
The question, of course: Just how much are Davenport taxpayers on the hook for to make this Ferris wheel a reality?
The answer: Not a dime.
"They're not on the hook for anything," Gluba said.
That's because its being built with private money.
River Bandits owner Dave Heller also owns the new company 'Main Street Amusements LLC', which will oversee the amusement rides at the ballpark.
Main Street Amusements is fronting the entire cost of the new Ferris wheel, through a $995,000 loan secured from The National Bank in Bettendorf a couple weeks ago.
"I think it's something that people will really enjoy. I think it's something our fans will enjoy. I think it's something the community will enjoy. I think people will like riding the wheel, and I think it will bring people downtown and that's all a good thing," Heller explained.
Davenport will pay that investment back in installments over the next five years.
But that money will come out of the Ballpark Improvement Fund, which is funded entirely by the lease payments the River Bandits make to the city to use the park.
"We, by law, by the agreement a few years ago, have to put about $400,000 a year into the stadium. We have to spend it somewhere," Gluba explained.
For the next few years, the city will just be investing that money in paying off the Ferris wheel.
The Ferris wheel will be city-owned, just like the rest of the property. And, just like for the rest of the property, the River Bandits' insurance should cover all liability.
If all goes well, the Ferris wheel should be up and running by the Fourth of July, or maybe even earlier.
Other new attractions coming to the ballpark this season include two zip lines, a carousel, and new bounce houses. They should be opening up over the next couple months.
But it's the Ferris wheel that has city leaders and team officials buzzing.
"The fact that people here are so excited about the Ferris wheel is really exciting to me," Heller said. "I get a real charge out of people saying how much they're looking forward to seeing this thing turn and having this kind of asset in the community."
It's probably one of the only times in baseball when everybody wins.