Des Moines: May 17, 2008. At a press conference on the south bank of the Raccoon River, David Oman today announced that the EarthPark project will be located in one of four Iowa Communities: River City, Buxton, Sevastopol or Lithograph City.
The project was forced to find a new home when four towns dropped out of the race for the $180 million project. Grinnell dropped out when Grinnell College refused to allocate $25 million of its $1 billion endowment to finance the project, or to buy a letter of credit for the remaining $975 million to cover projected operational losses. Riverside was disqualified when Captain Kirk was unable to attend a fundraiser. Tiffin said its reported involvement was a typographical error, and Pella officials said that the inability to combine the project with the Bos Landen golf course and a space elevator made it impractical. Another candidate town, Kendallville, rejected a $25 million bond issue for the project in a citywide referendum, 12-5.
The project was earlier rejected by larger communities, including Des Moines, Coralville and Dubuque.
Reporters asked David Oman whether the fact that none of the towns still in the running for the project actually exist might hamper the project.
"I resent the implications of that question," retorted Oman. "River City is one of the finest Iowa towns ever used in a work of fiction. If you don't love Music Man, you don't love Iowa."
One reporter noted that two of the towns on the list, Buxton and Lithograph City, are ghost towns that have had no residents for at least 50 years. Oman said "that shows how important the EarthPark is to the economic development of these fine communities." Project boosters say the $155 million project will draw a million visitors a year and generate $131 million in economic activity in any community, no matter how desolate, godforsaken, or imaginary.
One reporter noted that Sevastopol is a defunct town on the south bank of the Raccoon River that was incorporated into Des Moines over 100 years ago. The state legislature would have to approve the separation of Sevastopol from Des Moines, and, said the reporter, "monkeys will fly out of my butt first."
Oman replied that EarthPark booster Ted Townsend has connections with the Iowa Great Ape Trust, and that work on the flying monkeys is expected to be completed by Earth Day, 2010.
A legislative change has made it possible to move the project into these communities, according to Oman. "Senator Grassley inserted the words 'real or imagined' into last year's budget reconciliation bill authorizing additional funds for EarthPark. This gives us much-needed flexibility to get this project underway."