By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Supporters of St. Ambrose University’s St. Vincent Center Development were invited to attend a meeting about the project March 31 at the Rogalski Center on campus. The St. Vincent property, located several blocks off campus, is where the university hopes to build a stadium and practice fields, along with parking for its sports events.
Mike Poster, the university’s vice president for finance, said the meeting’s purpose was to gather supporters of the project. “We’ve heard feedback from the neighbors and those who oppose it,” he said. “We want to hear from you and have you show your support.” He asked the more than 300 supporters in attendance to stay involved, especially with upcoming public hearings of Davenport’s Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council.
Currently St. Ambrose has 23 varsity sports with more than 700 student athletes. Assumption High School, which would also use the fields, has 17 varsity sports. Because of lack of a true home field for the majority of sports, the schools together have more than two dozen sites they use. Poster emphasized that St. Ambrose and Assumption already play or practice some games at the Assumption High School site, which is adjacent to the proposed fields.
In preparing for the complex, St. Ambrose conducted studies pertaining to noise, light, traffic, parking and storm water. When neighbors voiced some concerns, the university made changes such as reducing number of seats, moving the football stadium to a lower point and providing for Davenport Police to assist with traffic control before and after games. “We think we’ve come half way,” Poster stated.
Ed Rogalski, president emeritus of St. Ambrose, said the complex has been a long time coming. “We have the classrooms and resident halls, but our sports sites are
“I live in the neighborhood, by the way, and ask you to join us in any way you can to make this become a reality. I empathize with the neighbors. But I like noise — it’s life, energy and vitality in our community.”
Wade King, Assumption’s athletic director and head football coach, said that as a representative of the school and as a neighbor, he is in favor of the project.
Both schools will save rental costs if the stadium is built. “We pay rent and cannot host our own events without this facility.” He noted that Assumption pays $2,200 per game to rent Brady Street Stadium for football. The stadium “will bring energy to this part of the city.”
Ray Shovlain, the university’s athletic director and head men’s basketball coach, has been with the university for 35 years. “I’ve also lived in this neighborhood during that period.” The university is at a crossroads in recruiting quality athletes. “This project is critical to us.”
He thanked Poster for the outstanding job he has done and the criticism he has taken. “He has brought in outside agencies and shown how we meet or exceed all city codes with this project.”
Shovlain encouraged supporters to “step up to the plate” in calling, texting or emailing their alderman and mayor. “This project will make a difference for St. Ambrose, Davenport and the Quad-Cities.”
The next big step, Poster said, is to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission. If all goes as planned, that meeting is scheduled for May 6, followed by a vote May 20. A public hearing before the city council would be held June 4, followed by three required readings June 11, 25 and July 9. All meetings concerning the proposal are tentative. Some may be moved to a larger location because of the potential for large crowds. Copies of the stadium renderings, studies and more are available at www.sau.edu/svc.
During a question and answer session, one person asked about unresolved issues. Poster said he thinks some neighbors distrust the university. Some are concerned about change. Still others are willing to continue talks.
Another person asked about the impact on property values. Poster said property values around other Quad-City-area stadiums show they keep pace with valuation in other parts of their respective cities.
Pleasant Valley’s stadium in northeast Bettendorf was built in the 1980s. New $300,000-400,000 homes have been built since 2005 that are near the stadium. “They are not concerned about values.”
Another question focused on a what-if scenario: Would a buyer wanting to build high-rise apartments on the property have to go through the same hoops? Probably not, Poster said. But the city’s decision to implement a “PID” (Planned Institutional District) for higher education facilities and medical campuses with more than 40 acres was a good step. “We have to put it all (the proposal) out there.”
Following the meeting, St. Ambrose alumnus Pete Ivanic spoke about the “SAU Stadium Yes” Facebook page he began. “Within 48 hours it had 1,000 likes,” said Ivanic, a member of St.
Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. St. Ambrose supports the page, which now has more than 2,400 likes. “It’s a grassroots 2014 media campaign,” added Ivanic.