Bettendorf plans to get out of the swimming pool and fitness center business, as a new partnership with the Iowa-side YMCA would transform Splash Landing and the Life Fitness Center.

The Landing is a new project comprised of three parts – a community water park, a versatile ice rink, and a unique recreational center, all in the area of Middle Road and 23rd Street. Though the Y at 3800 Tanglefoot Lane, Bettendorf, is less than two miles from the LFC at 2222 Middle Road, the Y plans to acquire LFC and turn it into a youth rec center and early learning/childcare center.

A rendering of the plans for a new Bettendorf water park, to be run by the YMCA of the Iowa Mississippi Valley.

The YMCA of the Iowa Mississippi Valley also would contribute one-third of the cost of a $18.7-million new water park, to be built at the corner of Middle and 23rd, where the temporary ice rink has been. A new $3-million year-round ice rink and recreational space would be built and maintained by the city, where Splash Landing is now.

“This water park, we’ve been working together with the YMCA, who is going to help us fund this project,” Kim Kidwell, Bettendorf director of culture and recreation, said Wednesday morning. The Y will cover one-third of the cost, the city a third and private sources have already nearly covered the rest.

“The scale and scope of this project, we wouldn’t be able to do alone as a city, without a tax increase or referendum,” she said. “This partnership allows us to bring these amenities to the community without having to raise taxes.”

A new water park would provide more than 20,000 square feet of water recreation (about 50% larger than the current pool), including:

  • Activity Pool with rock-climbing wall, basketball, floatables, lap lanes, and more
  • 3-story slide tower with 2-story tall FlyTyme slide, raft/tube slide, open body slide, and speed slide
  • Splash Deck with interactive play structure
  • 430-foot-long Lazy River

Replacing Splash Landing would benefit the entire community:

  • Serve up to 1,500 people compared to 700
  • Open to the public daily
  • Daily Admission fee for non-Y members
  • Owned by the city and operated by the YMCA, saving Bettendorf taxpayers $200,000 a year

Offsetting regular city losses

Currently, the city loses about $200,000 a summer running the pool, and much more this year, since a repainting problem forced the city to close it to the general public. “We never make a profit on the pool,” Kidwell said. Same with LFC – the city has to cover an operating loss of $250,000 to $300,000 a year, she said.

Bettendorf culture and recreation director Kim Kidwell speaks at Splash Landing Aug. 17, 2022 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

The temporary ice rink costs $50,000 to $70,000 a year to get ready.

“With a permanent ice rink, we’ll just have to take the turf off, turn on the chiller, flood it and it’ll be much less maintenance,” Kidwell said, noting the city will own and operate that.

The LFC has a little over 800 members. This year, Splash Landing lost about $300,000, Kidwell said. “Every day the pool wasn’t open, we were just cringing, because this year would have been an awesome year to have the pool open.

“It’s definitely a loss for the community and really unfortunate what happened this summer,” she said. “If this deal is passed, we’ll have another summer without a pool, but we are looking at making arrangements with pools in other cities, so our residents can have a place to go.”

The city actually paid the 22 lifeguards all summer, who continued to offer swim lessons and limited lap swims, Kidwell said.

After having to close Splash Landing the day it opened for the 2022 season, Bettendorf determined that there was an issue with paint that was used in the pool last September. The paint contractor responsible for painting the pool was W.F. Scott Decorating, Inc., out of Rock Island.

“Staffing is an issue all over the country right now, especially lifeguards. We worked really hard to get these lifeguards trained and on board,” she said. “We paid them all summer, regardless of how much they worked.”

The city is still in negotiations with the pool paint manufacturer.

“We could have never offered this proposed amenity without the partnership with the Y,” Kidwell said. The current Splash Landing needs either drastic repairs or a new pool, she said.

“We’re excited – the new water park proposal has a lazy river; it has three large three-story slides,” she said. “There will be basketball hoops; there will be inflatables you can take in and out to provide extra activities for kids.”

There also will be a new concession stand, locker rooms and restrooms to share with the ice rink in the winter.

“I think this is gonna be a fabulous amenity for the community,” Kidwell said. “The location, keeping it here, it’s pretty central to the city, so it allows kids from the southern part of Bettendorf to walk or bike here. It’s really accessible to the community.”

This is a rendering for the entire water park and ice rink site in Bettendorf.

In the partnership with the Y, they will operate the new aquatic center and be financially responsible for it.

“They will be responsible for the day-to-day maintenance, the staffing,” Kidwell said. “That will help the city tremendously. They run pools; this is what they do, so they’re the experts at it.”

If you’re a Y member, you will be able to get into the new pool for free.

“There won’t be any Y-only hours,” Kidwell said. “It’s going to be open to the community, open to the public all hours that it’s open.”

All swim lessons and lap swims that the city has provided at Splash Landing will continue in the new water park, she noted.

Why is the Y interested?

As part of this plan, the YMCA would acquire and repurpose the Life Fitness Center into a youth-focused Y.

“They have a real need for space,” Kidwell said. “It’s not going to be your traditional YMCA. They will offer programming for gymnastics ninja, indoor basketball, indoor soccer.”

Courts at Bettendorf’s Life Fitness Center, 2222 Middle Road.

Child care is a real need in the community now, she said. “It would take years for the city to come up with the funding to do those things, and the Y being a nonprofit, they’re able to turn it around quicker. They need the space, the like the space.

“It’s part of this whole proposal – they’ll give us the third (for the water park), but they want the fitness center as well. It’s all one big package deal,” Kidwell said.

The Y has agreed to keep the LFC tennis courts for 18 months minimum, and one of the courts is striped for pickleball, so that will continue. The Bettendorf Y has six pickleball courts at their location.

“Our recreation staff will be moving down to the Community Center, so they will offer pickleball down there as well,” Kidwell said, adding the TBK Sports Complex in north Bettendorf also has drop-in pickleball for $5 with open hours.

Brad Martell, president/CEO of the YMCA of the Iowa Mississippi Valley, said they have looked into building a pool in the city of Bettendorf.

“We started talking, what if we pooled our money and we could build a much bigger, grander pool without raising taxes?” he said Wednesday. “One idea led to another, and the Y needed space for the gymnastics ninja program (currently at TBK), which serves over 400 kids monthly, he said.

Brad Martell, president/CEO of YMCA of the Iowa Mississippi Valley, speaks at Splash Landing in Bettendorf, Aug. 17, 2022 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“Life Fitness came into play and we were looking for years to do an Early Learning Center, state-licensed child care,” Martell said. “We have a great need for a building like Life Fitness Center. We can repurpose it into a YMCA youth sports center – do a lot of winter basketball, soccer. It just kind of fit.”

Other new Y facilities

The Y opened the $24-million Bittner YMCA in downtown Davenport in December 2020 and is getting ready to open a new $12-million North Scott Y in Eldridge in late November.

The new North Scott Community YMCA in Eldridge is expected to open in late November 2022.

The Y plans to invest about $1 million in renovating the LFC in Bettendorf for the child care center alone. They haven’t gotten designs yet, Martell said.

They plan to move in with the gymnastics ninja and youth basketball in January 2023. The tennis courts will stay, and long-term the Y would love to create an indoor recreational soccer complex there.

The new Y center will be a recreational youth center, and not competitive, Martell emphasized. “These are kids who more than likely aren’t gonna make the varsity team, but still want to play sports.”

“That’s what our vision is for this complex,” he said.

Ninja started about 18 months ago – “a huge home run for us,” Martell said of the TBK complex, mainly for boys. “It’s basic gymnastics, but the kids wear the headbands and ninja outfit. It’s really a cool thing; we’ve had a lot greater success with it than we ever imagined we’d have.”

The Y has offered programs at TBK for three years. The acquisition of the 68,000-square-foot LFC is built into the Y’s one-third funding of the water park, Martell said.

The Y plans to transform the Life Fitness Center into a youth recreation center.

The Bettendorf Y has 13,500 members (pre-COVID, they had 15,500). The Bittner Y has 10,500 members. “By everything we’re doing, we have a lot of capacity to add members,” Martell said. “This would give us another avenue to serve the little kids, the 3-to-5-year-olds.”

“We don’t think of ourself as the Bettendorf location, the Utica location – we’re one Y, serving the Iowa side of the river,” he said. “We utilize all of our space.”

Expanding child care is a state problem and national problem the Y wants to address. It currently operates two early learning centers in Davenport, including one across from Palmer College, and one across from Bittner.

Both of them serve about 100 kids, and they have a waiting list of 250. Some Ys have over 400 kids on a waiting list, Martell said. “They can’t find staff,” he said.

A rendering of the pool area in the new North Scott YMCA in Eldridge.

“We’re challenged every day, we’re no different,” Martell said. “We think by middle of October, we’ll find some staff.”

“We are very dependent on the 17- to 22-year-olds for a lot of our positions,” he said.

How will this be paid for?

The city’s portion of the water park will use about $6 million in its federal ARPA funds. For the private portion, the city is “pretty close” to raising the $6-million-plus in grants and donations, Kidwell said. “I would say we have most of it secured. The part we’re still looking into is the ice rink funding. We’re hoping to get that soon, so we can do the project simultaneously.”

The non-winter uses for the ice rink will include green space, overflow areas for the water park. When the water park isn’t open, the city could host movie nights, outdoor concerts or recreational programs there, Kidwell said.

The city decided to switch the locations, to “kind of have a wow factor at the corner” for the new water park, she said. “We don’t have to re-use any of this infrastructure. It’s not good; it’s like failing.

“In negotiations with the Y, we thought it would be a great amenity just to have on the corner,” she said.

For Y as a nonprofit, dealing with escalating salaries and inflation, spending millions more in Bettendorf will be a challenge, Martell said.

The YMCA opened its new $24-million downtown Davenport branch (630 E. 4th St.) in December 2020.

“Like any other business in this time, it’s always a challenge,” he said. “Our Y is very financially stable right now. We’re in a very blessed position – we have very good donors this community and just very good support from the community.”

The Y’s annual support campaign this year raised a record amount of $900,000, Martell said. He also doesn’t anticipate any Y membership increases – the last one was in 2009.

“With inflation and pressures on salaries, we are increasing program fees, but we have not touched membership and we don’t plan to,” he said.

In summer 2016, the Scott County Family Y at 3800 Tanglefoot Lane, Bettendorf, opened its $4.5 million renovation and expansion. Some updates included an 11,000-square-foot fitness center and two full-sized gyms, with overhead walking/running track. 

The conversion of the Bettendorf LFC will create:

  • Early Learning Center for 100 additional children in the QC
  • Gymnastics/Ninja Center
  • Indoor recreational soccer & basketball programs
  • Summer recreational sports camps
  • Youth personal training center

This center would offer additional benefits as well:

  • An 18-month guarantee for indoor tennis starting Jan. 1, 2023
  • YMCA Fee waived for all current LFC members
  • Center remains open for city recreation programs in inclement weather
  • Center continues to serve as city emergency shelter
  • Ownership transfers to the Y, saving Bettendorf taxpayers $250,000 a year

A new ice rink would provide year-round opportunities on 1.2 acres:

  • Larger Ice Rink with island feature
  • Permanent structure
  • Decorative, safer railing system for beginner skaters
  • Pole lighting system & LED colored string lighting
  • Zamboni Room

Replacing Frozen Landing would benefit the entire community:

  • Provide outdoor winter recreation activities
  • Allow additional space for pool patrons & other recreational activities in off-season
  • Owned and operated by the city, saving Bettendorf taxpayers $25,000 to $50,000 a year
  • No tax increases

If approved by the city council, a bid packet will be ready by the end of the year, the water park project would be awarded after the first of the year, construction would start in the spring and be complete in summer 2024. The current Splash Landing would not be available for the general public next summer, Kidwell said.

This plan still needs to be reviewed and approved by the Bettendorf City Council and the YMCA Corporate Board. Ahead of that decision, there will be two Community Informational Open Houses at the Waterfront Convention Center, 2021 State Street, Bettendorf:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 24th 5-7 p.m.
  • Monday, Aug. 29th 5-7 p.m.

On Sept. 6th, the Bettendorf City Council will set a public hearing for Tuesday, Sept. 20th at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, 1609 State Street, Bettendorf, and expects to vote on the plan later that night.

You can also ask questions/submit comments by clicking here. To see the City of Bettendorf and YMCA’s full presentation to the City Council, click here.

For more information concerning The Landing, visit the city’s website.