Providing great views of the ballpark and one of the best Minor League Baseball experiences, a new Ferris wheel at Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low Class A; Midwest League) is our choice for Best Ballpark Improvement in the annual Ballpark Digest awards.
We’re not talking about a small, portable amusement-park Ferris wheel here: we’re talking about a permanently installed ride soaring some 108 feet above the playing field, designed to be used even when the ballpark is empty. Now, amusement rides are not unusual in the ballpark world – plenty of ballparks, including those in Hickory, Winston-Salem and Louisville, feature carousels and other smaller amusement rides – but the River Bandits installation is the first permanent Ferris wheel placed in an MiLB ballpark, to the best of our knowledge.
“It’s always a treat to return annually to Modern Woodmen Park — there’s always something new to see and experience,” said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. “Adding a Ferris wheel to the ballpark is a great move: the views of downtown Davenport and the ballpark are spectacular, and, besides, who doesn’t love a ride on a Ferris wheel?”
“The Ferris wheel has elevated family-friendly entertainment to a new level in the Quad Cities, both literally and figuratively, so we are pleased to accept this great award on behalf of this entire community,” said River Bandits owner Dave Heller. “Ballpark Digest is the industry standard, which makes this award that much more meaningful. Our great partnership with the City of Davenport has been critical to beautifying and enhancing Modern Woodmen Park, and our fans and community partners have bought into that vision to make this ballpark the best in America and the pride of the Quad Cities.”
The Ferris wheel stands atop the ballpark’s left-field berm, 105 feet above the playing field, with 20 gondolas seating up to six adults or eight people including children. Riders from two months to 100 years – and four-generation families together – have enjoyed the unparalleled views of Modern Woodmen Park, the Centennial Bridge, the Mississippi River, and both the Iowa and Illinois sides of the waterway. With millions of color combinations from the LED lights on the ride, fans and riders have enjoyed an entirely different light show each night.
The success of the Ferris wheel and amusements at Modern Woodmen Park also made a tremendous impact in the local community. For each ride in 2014 on the Ferris wheel, Mediacom Drop’N Twist, Space Camp gyroscope, and zip line, 50 cents will be donated to Genesis Health Services Foundation, benefiting Camp Genesis, Genesis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Genesis Flu-Free Quad Cities. With ownership personally making up any difference, the River Bandits pledged a $50,000 cash donation to the Genesis Health Services Foundation. In addition, the Ferris wheel opened on May 24 with the Inaugural Ferris Wheel Ride event and fundraiser. Proceeds from the pre-sold 300 tickets and the Inaugural Ferris Wheel Ride event went to benefit the Genesis Health Services Foundation in the Quad Cities.
A year after Modern Woodmen Park was voted the Best Minor League Ballpark in America by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best.com, the ballpark drew its largest average attendance – 3,885 per game – in franchise history.
“We are humbled and grateful for the record support of our fans this season, and for the national recognition of the Best Ballpark Improvement award for the Ferris wheel,” said River Bandits General Manager Andrew Chesser. “These achievements energize and propel us further toward our goal of making Modern Woodmen Park the central gathering place for the people throughout the Quad Cities region.”
The Ferris wheel joins an award-winning lineup of several other improvements to Modern Woodmen Park under Main Street Baseball’s ownership, including the iconic corn field, sports lounge, Pepsi Loge Boxes and Budweiser Champions Club – all previously recognized by Ballpark Digest.
Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Here’s a list of the 2014 awards, both already awarded and to come:
Broadcaster of the Year: Steve Klauke, Salt Lake Bees
Best New Logo / Branding: Akron RubberDucks
Organization of the Year: Big Top Baseball
Best MiLB Promotion: Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Best Summer Collegiate Promotion: Kalamazoo Growlers
Editor’s Choice: Granderson Stadium, University of Illinois at Chicago
Best New Food Item: BIG APPLE, Fort Wayne TinCaps
Best Ballpark Improvement: Ferris wheel, Quad Cities River Bandits
Nov. 11: Best Ballpark Renovation, Best Marketing, Executive of the Year
Nov. 12: Team of the Year, Best New Ballpark (Announced in weekly newsletter)