The Iowa Environmental Project Board of Directors are meeting today and plan to announce where they intend to build a $150 million “Earthpark.” The announcement is scheduled for 12:30 this afternoon in Grinnell.
The two cities vying for the project are Pella, which is home to an annual spring tulip festival and Central College, and Riverside, the new home to a huge casino.
First it was called the Iowa Child Project and developers planned to build it in Coralville. But negotiations between the city and the Iowa Environmental Project board broke down and the board began looking at 15 other cities.
Backers now call it the Earthpark and it is to feature an indoor rain forest, a six-hundred-thousand gallon aquarium and other attractions. The cost of the project is estimated at $150 million. Senator Charles Grassley lined up a $50 million federal grant, and both Pella and Riverside have promised $25 million. The rest must be raised from other sources, and David Oman, the executive director of the Iowa Environmental Project, expects to ask the state for as much as $20 million.
Oman says construction will begin next year and the Earthpark would probably open by 2010. Oman guesses one and a half million people would visit the Earthpark each year.