Proposed SAU sports complex a no-brainer

Posted Online: April 06, 2014, 6:30 pm
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DAVENPORT – Being in and around the sports world of the Quad Cities, my opinion might be a bit biased when it comes to St. Ambrose University's proposed new athletic complex in the heart of the city.

The $25 million proposed St. Vincent's Complex project calls for a 2,500-seat stadium with artificial turf and an eight-lane track that will be home to SAU football, track & field, soccer and lacrosse programs. Also, there will be a softball field, two practice fields for soccer and lacrosse, a throw ring for track events and a 410-space parking lot.

Tagged with a $33 million economic impact for the QCA, the project is bordered by West Central Park Avenue on the south, West 35th Street on the north, Davenport Assumption High School on the west and North Gaines Street on the east. It is the location of the St. Vincent's Center, property that SAU acquired from the Diocese of Davenport.

In my opinion, it would be a great addition for the college as well as Assumption High School, which also would use some of the facilities – utilizing the stadium for both football and track. It is a facility that SAU officials say is needed to stay relevant in recruiting "quality student-athletes to the school and quality people to the community.''

As proposed, no homes would be demolished for the facility, which is planned for what is now mostly green space.

Is this complex needed? Absolutely. SAU's 23 varsity athletic teams currently practice and play at 20 sites in and around the Quad-Cities.

Because of concern from residents in existing neighborhoods that border the project site, the scope of the facility has been scaled back almost 50 percent, according to Mike Poster, SAU's vice president for finance. The stadium seating alone has been halved to make sure traffic isn't a problem and an indoor basketball facility has been nixed from the original wish list.

After sitting through a meeting of the complex's supporters this past week, I came away thinking the project can't be anything but a win-win for the school and the city.

I can understand concerns from residents around the St. Vincent's property. It's a pretty quiet neighborhood as it sits right now and there admittedly will be a few more days of traffic concerns when the complex is up and running. However, police-regulated traffic flow on game days and specific traffic patterns on the property should help.

But, having a well-groomed park-like addition to the neighborhood is a whole lot better than what could go in there in terms of traffic and quality of life should St. Ambrose sell the property to a developer. A vocal group of residents in the neighborhood have raised plenty of concerns about a sports complex being added at that location.

Here's a news flash for those people. With the existing Assumption High School facilities and open fields at the St. Vincent's property being used for practices – it is ALREADY a sports complex!

The $25 million project will only improve the neighborhood and control traffic issues more so than they are now.

It is especially confounding why neighbors would object to the facility when SAU officials say they will work with the city to improve infrastructure that is desperately needed. Alderman Mike Matson admitted that that part of the city has some of the biggest drainage and sewer concerns.

Poster said SAU and city officials have been working together to try to formulate a plan to remedy those issues during construction. Poster also said storm-water runoff was a big concern as it was when work adjacent to Locust Street was being done. In that instance, the school addressed those drainage issues so that storm water would run off into an underground dispersal system that he says has worked well. It also shows SAU's willingness to step up and be a good neighbor.

As part of the SVC proposal, SAU has had feasibility studies to make sure the project meets all city zoning codes in terms of noise, light, traffic, parking and storm water runoff. Poster noted that changes have been made to ensure all levels of potential noise and light pollution are well within city codes. That is why amenities such as lights for practice fields were removed. It is also a reason the stadium location was moved to a lower point on the property and capacity was cut and other buildings/facilities were removed from the plans.

Sometimes I just don't get people raising a fuss about a project that will enhance the neighborhood.

It is called progress.

People shouldn't object to it just because you don't like, or want, change.

This project – for the good of the city and the school – should happen.

Sports writer Tom Johnston can be reached at tjohnston@qconline.colm

Important dates

As the proposed St. Ambrose University sports complex proposal heads to the Davenport city council, there are a number of important dates looming that supporters of the project would like people to know about. They are:

Planning & zoning commission meetings are set for May 6 (public hearing) and May 20 (planning & zoning commission vote).

City council meetings: June 4 (public hearing), June 11, June 25 and July 9.


Local events heading

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