Oops, I had a date wrong on my “Museum Musings” blog, year 2003 not 2005. Sorry. I mentioned I stopped in Moline to learn more about the John Deere museum complex. It’s spread out over about 7 acres with approximately 40,000 feet of enclosures and free parking as well as free admission.
They cleaned up an area of blight at their own cost, same as Caterpillar plans to do in Peoria. The site consists of three major building and lots of free parking. The souvenir stands where doing a booming business as will Caterpillar who will probably close their merchandise shop in the Bank One area..
These structures were built in 1997 with no cost to the taxpayer except a very few dollars for some infrastructure. John Deere at that time was about a $14 billion dollar company who requested no other publicly supported museums, ect., had to be built before they would build their pavilions. By contrast, Caterpillar is a $30 billion dollar wealthy company who has told Lakeview Museum that they wouldn’t build unless Lakeview builds. How strange. But maybe not strange at all, when you consider that companies don’t just grow into $30 billion dollar companies by just hard work and good managers alone. Shrewdly, Caterpillar wants a commitment from the property tax payers, the Federal Government, the State Government and a million dollars off the new highway transportation bill, a countywide property tax increase amounting to $6 million dollars; a total amount of taxpayer dollars of $31 million.
What Caterpillar wants, they get. They wanted the ballpark to impress their out of town guests and customers, they wanted the RiverPlex so they would not have to build their own; unlike Boeing in Tacoma who built their own recreational center that even includes indoor tennis. Now they won’t build their long overdo Caterpillar Museum unless Lakeview funds theirs first. The track record of these two partially taxpayer funded facilities is not good. Neither does the Caterpillar supported new zoo which will probably sell more new bonds to close the 90% total funding they promised they would have in hand before they start to build.
I visited the Putnam Museum and IMAX theatre in Davenport across the river and the Children Zoo which were in walking distance to each other. The art and music building between these two centers was being evacuated to move down to the river. Different strokes for different folks. In visiting at a local restaurant, I learned not everyone was happy with the move.
There was a difference in mood between the people in the quad cities and Dubuque and Peoria. Quad city people seemed to want new business, not new entertainment. By the way, Davenport has a lower league ranking than our Peoria minor league baseball team but is outdrawing our Peoria Chiefs. Is that right, I ask Rocky, Don, Ralph, Chappy and Mike?? If so why?? Break even was projected to be 3500 a night average in 1999. With inflation I suggest break even is now at least 4000 PAID fans a night. Didn’t make it last year and this year doesn’t look promising yet, but the season is still young and Rocky sold the Lucky Lady so who knows, maybe the Chiefs will break a long financial losing spell. After all, the Cubbies are in town!!
I close with this reminder; facts do not cease to exist just because they are ignored.