Additional details have come forward about the vision for the proposed $200 million entertainment center to be built on parkland near the Rippling Waters Casino.
The plans call for a 420-room hotel with a 42,000-square-foot indoor water park; 120,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space; an outdoor amphitheater; an outdoor waterpark with eight large slides; and a parking garage that would fit 1,700 vehicles.
Nearly 30 acres of Sycamore Park land would be sold to a private company for the facility. An entertainment district would be built on the park land during the same time as construction of the proposed Rippling Waters Casino.
The proposed entertainment complex could add nearly $300 million of additional value to the community along with more than 1,000 jobs, officials said.
“Here in Ottumwa, the infrastructure is there, which is a super plus,” said Fred Lynn with the Lynn Group, the Florida company hoping to develop the entertainment complex. “I believe participation in the area will be great. There’s good potential in Ottumwa. You just don’t want to stick these things anywhere.”
The entertainment center would offer jobs in management, culinary arts, groundskeeping, maintenance, accounting, sales, among other positions, Lynn said.
“People are taking shorter vacations, closer to home, so regional parks and regional draws are doing very well,” Lynn said.
Funding for the project has been secured, but it can’t move forward until the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission makes its decision at the next meeting.
“I’ve committed quite a bit of time and money with this. I believe it’s going to be a win. I have to look at it like that,” Lynn said. “I have to be ready to move once to the flag drops.”
The shopping and restaurant area would likely be about 25 percent brand name anchor businesses. Lynn is hoping around 40-50 percent will eventually be local business participation.
“The whole plan is to try to make sure the businesses in Ottumwa get a chance to get into this,” Lynn said. “But there will be some brand names to create anchorage.”
The outdoor waterpark would be an expansion of The Beach Ottumwa. It would include $16 million of added features, including slides, a lazy river and large children’s area. Lynn said the indoor and outdoor waterparks would each be built based on keeping customers entertained for 4-4.5 hours.
Lynn has worked on themed entertainment projects in 16 different countries and is currently working with Ingenus on a project in Michigan. He has also done work for Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. He said committing to a project is a big decision to make.
“I really took a very defined look at it. You don’t want go into debt on something. I really took a very, very hard look at it before I made a commitment,” Lynn said.
Ottumwa City Councilmembers approved a letter of support Tuesday evening to build the entertainment district that could partner with the proposed casino development.
Although the approval Tuesday was for a letter of support, City Administrator Joe Helfenberger said last week that the council’s vote indicates the city is willing to consider the process for the project
Even if the council does continue to support the purchase of Sycamore Park for the entertainment complex, the deal would be contingent upon the IRGC granting a gaming license for the proposed Rippling Waters Casino.
If Sycamore Park is sold, the city then would have to acquire replacement park land somewhere within the city.
City officials indicated they will work with the Park Board to identify possible replacement land. The process needs approval from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of the Interior, Helfenberger said.
Rippling Waters Casino, which would be located adjacent from the Bridge View Center, would include about 500 slot machines, a hotel separate from the entertainment center hotel and a buffet restaurant, among other amenities.
There are currently 17 casinos in Iowa, and along with Ottumwa, the communities of Fort Dodge, Tama County and Lyon County are competing for a gaming license.
The board of five Iowa Racing and Gaming commissioners are expected to make their decision on who receives a license at its May 13 meeting.
Pat Shaver can be reached at (641) 683-5360 or by e-mail at email@example.com.