TOUGH SPOT: Stadium Idea Faces Difficult Reality

A piece of prime real estate needs a new tenant, a high school needs a new stadium and the city could solve a 22-year-old problem. But the potential match-up has several hurdles.

From eyesore to promised land!

“I get excited when I think ‘Boy, that could be us someday down there,’” says Des Moines Roosevelt activities director, Kelley Hood.

A rotting plant on 38 acres of contaminated soil, but…

“It’s got great potential, there’s no doubt about it,” says Des Moines city councilwoman, Christine Hensley.

The old Diko plant’s name was only mentioned as a potential site for a potential football stadium for Roosevelt High School, but that was enough.

“A lot of community excitement, a lot of city excitement in something like that,” Hood nods.

He loves the idea of a true home stadium – a more even playing field.

“Our kids,” Hood says, “when we go out and play at some of the suburban schools, they see the stuff they have.”

And how could city leaders not like the idea?

“It’s been a problem sight for us and we would love to see something else happen with it,” says Hensley, “some development.”

This proposal makes sense from plenty of angles, but there is a catch – the site. There might not be a more difficult one in Des Moines to develop.

“This would be at the top of the list and it would not be for the faint of heart,” Hensley says.

It’s contaminated. It’s been locked up in lawsuits since 1995. And it’s owned by Titan International, and cantankerous CEO, Maurice Taylor.

“He’s just never been eager to work with the city or other parties that have expressed interest in the land,” Hensley shrugs.

Titan did pay over $10,000 in property taxes this year. A high school stadium would be tax exempt. Enough to send this idea back to the drawing board.

“It may never be feasible,” says Des Moines superintendent, Tom Ahart. “But it may, and if it were ever to be feasible, we want to be in position to take advantage of it.”

The site could be all wrong but the idea of a new stadium for Des Moines could still be alright. And for now the conversation could still be worth having.

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