The area around Modern Woodmen Park on the Davenport riverfront is in line for a major facelift by very early in next year’s baseball season.

The long-awaited paving of the former “show ground” gravel parking lot that stretches from below the Centennial Bridge west into Centennial Park and a flood protection project that will include decorative brick columns and a baseball-diamond shaped plaza just west of Gaines Street near the stadium entrance should be finished very close to opening day 2011.

Next week, the Davenport City Council will accept bids, which are expected to total around $3 million, for both projects. 

The flood protection project will be paid for in part through a $1.05 million IJOBS grant. The $1.1 million estimated cost of the parking lot will be picked up by the city.

Mayor Bill Gluba has been pushing for the parking lot project to be fast-tracked, calling it a “sore thumb” stuck between the new amenities in Centennial Park and the upgraded and renovated Modern Woodmen stadium.

“This will be a substantial improvement for our downtown area and our crown jewel facility on the river,” he said, noting that Modern Woodmen has been ranked by the newspaper USA Today as the best minor league baseball stadium in the country.

Public Works director Mike Clarke showed aldermen computer renderings of both projects at Wednesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting. While the flood protection is utilitarian, it also incorporates design elements that complement the ballpark and will enhance the game experience for fans, he said. Those include the decorative brick columns, which can be slotted with flood-prevention panels and keep up to a 24-foot surge at bay, as well as the gathering plaza that will be in the shape of a diamond and circles of colored concrete that will resemble baseballs.

Because new concrete had to be poured, any additional labor and material costs for the decorative items is negligible, Clarke said.

The parking lot will be around 200 spaces initially, with room to expand to 400. The area to the west that will not be paved initially will be left as green space and can be used for festival grounds or other uses.

Eighth Ward Alderman Mike Matson said it is sometimes hard to believe how far the city has come in that area since he was a high school football player huddling up inside what was then called John O’Donnell Stadium.

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“A lot of us remember when that was a landfill down there,” he said. “I have friends and relatives come in from out of town, and they always look around and say ‘oh, you are doing that?” ‘And that?’ It’s a big deal for Davenport.”