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Casino Offers Earthpark Boost

Mary Zielinski

The Gazette

June 13, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, 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 Gazette.]

    RIVERSIDE — In a bid to bring the Earthpark project to town, the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort CEO Dan Kehl put $12 million and about 40 acres of land on the table last night.

    Kehl, speaking as part of a public presentation at Riverside Elementary School, said the casino has an option on land from Tom Scott of River Products, the quarry directly south of the casino along Highway 22 in Riverside.

    He added that his parents, Ruth and Robert Kehl, would put in $2 million and the casino an additional $10 million at the rate of $1 million annually for 10 years.

    ‘‘That’s $12 million of the 25 (million),’’ said Kehl, referring to the $25 million local community match sought by the Earthpark (formerly The Environment Project and better known as the rain forest). There also would be the value of the donated land.

    Of the remaining $13 million needed, Kehl said an earlier meeting Monday afternoon with the Washington County Riverboat Foundation brought up the possibility of the ‘‘foundation making a substantial contribution to the Earthpark — $8 million over 10 years at $800,000 per year.’’

    The foundation is expected to have $3.2 million in state-mandated revenues to distribute to non-profit and charitable groups in the county.

    Further money could come from a hotel/motel tax that Kehl said could bring in $3 million per year.

    The Earthpark also has applied for a Vision Iowa grant, which will need community support, Kehl said.

    The $25 million local match is $5 million less than the $30 million sought in Coralville, the original project site.

    Dave Oman, CEO of Earthpark, said the Coralville site fell through because the ‘‘site was too small, too near the interstate, and the city wanted control of the site.’’

    Riverside is one of the four communities vying for the project, along with Tiffin, Pella and Grinnell.