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The new futsal mini-pitch system at Evelyn K. Davis Park in DSM. Photo courtesy of Pro Iowa

Des Moines residents, you may have noticed that aging spaces in a few metro parks have been rehabbed recently with new fencing, goal markings, lighting and benches. Well, say hello to futsal.

Driving the news: Ten futsal "mini-pitch" systems are being added to Iowa parks this summer, most of which are in the Des Moines metro.

  • One in Evelyn K. Davis Park officially opened this week.

But what is it? Futsal is a scaled-down soccer game played in areas that are roughly the size of a basketball court.

State of play: DSM, Pleasant Hill and Clive have opened mini-pitches in recent weeks.

  • They're all being donated as part of a partnership with Pro Iowa. Each cost about $100K.

The intrigue: Pro Iowa is trying to make soccer more accessible and incorporate the sport into the daily lives of more Iowans, Kyle Davy of Pro Iowa told us.

  • It's tied with a plan to build a $60 million stadium in downtown DSM that could break ground next year.

What's ahead: More DSM metro areas are getting futsal courts in coming weeks, including Cheatom Park, Oakridge neighborhood and Hoover High School.

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Go deeper

Jul 21, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

EMC wants taxes waived for Des Moines park development

The downtown site where EMC plans to build a park remains undeveloped and blocked from public access. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

EMC Insurance is asking Des Moines to waive property taxes on the downtown site where the company wants to build a park instead of expanding its headquarters, city officials confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: It's a potential loss in tax base on a spot considered to be a prime location for downtown redevelopment.

  • Yes, but: Parks are community assets that help improve people's health, reduce crime and strengthen local economies, according to the City Parks Alliance.

Driving the news: EMC announced on Friday that it's putting its $24 million expansion on an indefinite hold, and that the company instead wants to turn the property into a neighborhood park.

  • The decision was made after the company determined no near-term needs for additional office space, partly due to work-from-home flexibilities following the pandemic.

Flashback: The property, 701 Walnut St., is the site of the former Younkers department store that was destroyed by a fire in 2014.

  • The western half was saved and converted into the Wilkins Building apartments. (The iconic tea room is now an events venue.)
  • Multiple plans to redevelop the Younkers site fizzled before its downtown neighbor EMC purchased the property in 2018 for a headquarters expansion.

Details: The site, which is less than 0.4 acres, is assessed for $1.2 million by the Polk County Assessor.

  • EMC purchased it for $1.9 million, and taxes are currently $45,500 a year.
  • The insurer is now asking for those taxes to be waived in exchange for EMC paying for the park's development, DSM Parks director Ben Page confirmed this week.

Of note: The cost and full scope of plans for the park are unknown at this time, but EMC envisions sports courts, seating, raised flower beds and public art.

  • The land would be used as a park for at least 10 years through an agreement with DSM, EMC said.
  • Ongoing maintenance would mostly be the city's responsibility.

What they're saying: Mayor Frank Cownie commended EMC for the plan in a statement Friday, saying the park "will fill a much-needed void in the community."

  • EMC didn't directly answer if it would proceed without a tax break. "Based on initial discussions with the city, we anticipate that the waiver will be approved," spokesperson Sarah Buckley told us.

What's next: City staff will negotiate the terms of the park agreement and present them to the City Council for approval this fall.

  • EMC projected a late summer 2022 opening if approved.
1 hour ago - World

Biden: U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end this year

Biden returning to the White House on July 25. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The United States' combat mission against the Islamic State in Iraq will be completed "by the end of the year," President Biden said Monday prior to a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Why it matters: Biden is close to shifting the U.S. military mission in Iraq to a fully advisory role more than 18 years after combat troops were sent to the country under the former President George W. Bush.

How extreme weather feeds inflation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

This summer's extreme weather is having ripple effects that could raise food prices in the U.S. and disrupt diets around the world.

Why it matters: Climate scientists and food supply experts, like those at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, have long warned about the impact of human-caused global warming on prices, food shortages and hunger.