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Rainforest Timeline

Des Moines Register

November 10, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]


1995: Ted Townsend of Townsend Engineering, one of the most successful private manufacturing companies in the state, proposes turning Des Moines' Wakonda Club into an education center for teaching young people health and employment skills. The proposal would require a land exchange between the country club and Polk County. Both turn down the idea.

January 1997: Des Moines leaders, led by Townsend, propose an educational center on 25 acres on the southwest edge of downtown Des Moines that would include the world's largest simulated rainforest. A 10-acre, 20-story-tall dome would contain the forest, an elementary school and an aquarium. Included in the project would be a large-screen Omnimax theater, a science center, a 600-room hotel, an office building and other education facilities. The cost is estimated at $330 million. Dubbed the Iowa CHILD Campus (using an acronym for Center for Health in a Loving Democracy), the facility could attract 1.4 million visitors a year, a consultant says.

January 1999: After a lukewarm reception in Des Moines, Iowa Child organizers take their idea to Cedar Rapids for a $280 million rainforest/aquarium project.

December 2000: Coralville bids for the $280 million project, and Cedar Rapids backs away.

September 2001: Project cut to $225 million.

2003: U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ia., secures $50 million grant for the project, which is trimmed to $180 million.

December 2004: Project leaders say they will break ground in 2005.

2005: Project leaders get in battle with Coralville over land transfer. Design work continues.

Wednesday [November 9 2005]: Grassley wins congressional approval of a ban on the project using any more of the grant money until the $50 million is matched with private cash or in-kind services. Bill gives the project two years to raise the match or the grant or lose it.