For Prospect Meadows, the game isn't over

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Prospect Meadows, an ambitious baseball/softball development planned for north of Marion, received some welcome news courtesy of Gov. Terry Branstad.

Branstad signed legislation that will allow the complex to keep sales taxes collected on admission fees, concessions and other items over a 10-year period. Jack Roeder, president of Prospect Meadows, said backers expect the legislation to pump up to $1.5 million in remitted taxes back into the project.

The legislation was no sure thing. Its initial version was voted down in the Iowa Senate. Local leaders and lawmakers managed to put the bill back on track with revisions.

“We’re really excited,” Roeder said, adding the governor’s signature will be a shot in the arm for continuing efforts to raise private and public funds for the $14 million project.

We’ve been supportive of the project since its inception, both for the complex’s large potential for attracting thousands of visitors and for its addition of much-needed ball fields for local baseball and softball needs. Its “miracle field” for players with special needs would be the first such facility in the region.

It’s also been a place for welcome local government cooperation. Marion has pledged $1.25 million in assistance alongside $1.5 million from Linn County and $250,00 from Linn County Conservation. Cedar Rapids has devised a mechanism that could funnel hotel/motel tax dollars into Prospect Meadows if its events put “heads in beds” in the city’s hotels.

Prospect Meadows is not yet crossing home plate, however. Roeder said the project still is seeking a $2.8 million Community Attraction and Tourism, or CAT, grant, a prospect complicated by CAT’s transition into the new Enhance Iowa grant program starting July 1. Prospect Meadows also is seeking a $500,000 Iowa Great Places grant as part of the Cedar-Wapsie Byway. The project already has received a $1.5 million RISE grant through the Department of Transportation.

Roughly $3 million in private donations have been pledged, but Roeder said $2 million more are needed.

Roeder said backers remain confident construction can begin in 2017 with the first games played in 2018. The Legislature and governor have brought Prospect Meadows one important step closer to “Play ball!”

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