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Quad (rupling) efforts on the Mississippi

Ten years ago, we profiled the Quad Cities in our July “Town Meeting” feature. Here’s a look at what has happened in the Iowa and Illinois cities since.

Smart cities play to their natural strengths, and for the last 10 years, the Quad Cities has poured its energies into making the most of its position on the Mississippi River at the Illinois/Iowa border.

The four cities — Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Moline/East Moline and Rock Island on the Illinois banks — have reoriented themselves by reworking a once-industrial riverfront.

The Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center opened in January.

“What we’ve seen is an extraordinary change in the landscape of the riverfront,” said Lynn Hunt, vice president, sales, for the Quad Cities CVB.

A minor-league ballpark, hotels, meeting facilities and parks have replaced warehouses and factories as the cities made the Mississippi “more our front porch instead of our back yard,” said Hunt, a longtime resident who has watched the steady transformation.

Linked by boats and bridges

Like a river, the cities and their waterfronts flow one into the other. The metro area, with a combined population nearing 500,000, is connected by bridges and highways on land and by boats on the water. Three Channel Cat water taxis busily shuttle up to 47 passengers from one town to another.

Later this summer, an intracity ground transportation system called The Loop will connect the towns Thursday through Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons for a minimal fare.

The Quad Cities flow is a good but confusing feature for visitors, who don’t always know where one city ends and another begins.

A new wayfaring system, 200 color-coded signs that point the way to 85 destinations, has helped ease that problem. A different color denotes each city. The system “is great signage designed to move people from one city to another,” said Hunt.

Further giving each city its own identity are the distinctive meeting venues.

Try Davenport for entertainment

Davenport, the largest of the four cities, is home to the RiverCenter and the Adler Theatre, with a combined 100,000 square feet of meeting space. The complex is connected to the 221-room Radisson Quad City Plaza and next spring, another 150 hotel rooms will be linked to the complex when Restore St. Louis finishes its restoration of the Black Hawk Hotel, a historic property damaged by fire two years ago.

Davenport has become an entertainment destination, with the restoration of the Capitol Theatre and the openings of the River Music Experience, a roots music museum and performance venue, and the riverfront Figge Art Museum.

“Downtown Davenport is just fabulous,” said Hunt.
Next door in Bettendorf, the area’s newest meeting facility opened in January. The $20 million Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center has 24,000 square feet of meeting space and is connected by skywalk to the 514-room Isle Casino Hotel, one of three casinos in the Quad Cities. The Isle has a 15,000-square-foot convention center.

Across the river in Moline, the John Deere Commons and its hotels and meeting space are a reminder of the importance of Deere and Co. and agribusiness to the Midwest’s economy.

Within the riverfront Commons is the i wireless center, formerly the Mark of the Quad; two hotels, the 162-room Radisson on John Deere Commons and the 151-room Stoney Creek Inn and Conference Center; as well as galleries, shops, pubs and restaurants.

The centerpiece of the Commons is the John Deere Pavilion, which calls itself the world’s most comprehensive agricultural exhibit. In the past year, the Pavilion has upped its efforts in terms of booking after-hours events, and many groups are delighted to “dine amongst the tractors,”  said Hunt.

The riverfront development in Moline about 12 years ago inspired the other cities. After seeing Moline’s success, “some of the other cities followed quickly and closely,” said Hunt.

The Deere connection makes agricultural meetings fruitful. Moline is a stop on Ag Tours Illinois, which has brought travelers from 23 countries to Illinois. Aspects of that tour, such as visits to farms, can be reconfigured as field trips for convention and meeting groups.

Changes ahead for Rock Island riverfront

Rock Island’s riverfront figures to change the most in the coming months as space vacated by Jumer’s Casino becomes a riverfront park next spring.

In the meantime Jumer’s has moved 4 miles inland and has opened a 216-room hotel with a 7,400-square-foot special events center.

In downtown Rock Island, the 180-room Holiday Inn Rock Island Hotel and Conference Center has 10,000 square feet of meeting space. About eight blocks away, QCCA Expo Center and its 60,000 square feet of unobstructed space are used mostly for large expos.

The Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center opened in January.

Golf gets more attention in the area than might be imagined, thanks to the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, played at the Tournament Players Club at Deere Run course near Davenport. Golfers will find several new options among the area’s 30 courses, including the public opening of the military golf club at Rock Island Arsenal.

“It’s like playing golf in the middle of the Mississippi,” said Hunt.

After a round, golfers can adjourn to another once-private feature of the military installation on the upper Mississippi’s largest island — the commanding general’s home. In size, the home is second only to the White House among government-owned residences.

Nicklaus course opens in 2010

Another golf course opens next spring, south of the Quad Cities. Fyre Lake National Golf Club and Marina is being designed by Jack Nicklaus.

In terms of entertainment, the cities are turning to the riverfront, whether for tours or meals aboard the Celebration Belle, a riverboat that can handle groups of up to 800, or games at Modern Woodman Park, home of the Quad City River Bandits baseball team. Many upgrades there, from tiki bars to enhanced suites, make a night a the ballpark “more of a show than a ballgame,” said Hunt.

“The amenities on the riverfront will keep us in contention,” said Hunt. “We are not sitting back, saying we will do it tomorrow.”

Quad Cities CVB
(800) 747-7800