A week before St. Ambrose University files a zoning request for a sports complex at the former St. Vincent's property, frustration is starting to show on both sides of the issue.
About 300 people attended a meeting Monday hosted by the university to recruit supporters of the project. St. Ambrose wants to build a 2,500-seat stadium, a softball venue, soccer and practice fields as well as a 410-space parking lot on the 45-acre lot at 780 W. Central Park Ave., three blocks north of the college.
The university will make formal application for the project to the city on Monday.
Mike Poster, St. Ambrose's vice president of finance, told the crowd what the university wants to do and explained that light, sound, traffic, parking and stormwater studies have been done. The university and neighboring Assumption High School would share the football, softball and some of the practice facilities. Each school would likely host about five home football games per year.
"The one thing that frustrates me more than anything is when people say this isn't the right place for this," Poster said. "It is already a sports complex. For 350 days a year, we are going to use this the way it is already used now."
He told the group that the university has worked to meet neighbors' concerns, including reducing the size of the proposed stadium from 5,000 seats.
"We don't get enough credit for this," Poster told the room at the Rogalski Center on the university's campus. "We think we've come half way, and the neighbors have to come their half."
The Neighborhood Relations Council, a go-between for neighbors and St. Ambrose, met recently and voted 27-0 against supporting the project. The resolution passed at the March 20 meeting stated:
"We reject the entire application and encourage St Ambrose and the city to work together with all the parties in locating suitable sites to allow for future growth of the university, which we, the members of the N.R.C., support."
Jim Welch, a neighbor who opposes the project and serves on the Neighborhood Relations Council, said the neighbors have grown frustrated with any discussions with the university. He said neighbors don't trust the results of some of the studies done by St. Ambrose.
"What they are saying is being taken at face value," Welch said. "We've grown pretty weary of their condescending attitude."
Poster said at the meeting he thinks a reason some neighbors oppose the project is distrust in the process and the studies the university has done.
"There is a distrust by people in the neighborhood that don't think it will come together like we say it will," Poster said. "They are concerned about change in the neighborhood."
Alderman Mike Matson, 7th Ward, who represents the neighborhood north of the St. Vincent's property and has attended several meetings about the project, said passions are high on both sides. The RiverCenter in downtown Davenport has been discussed as the location for a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on May 6 and a vote on the rezoning request on May 20. The concern is that City Hall wouldn't be able to accommodate the expected crowd.
A Facebook page, "SAU stadium yes," had 2,369 likes for supporting the project. Created by 1996 alum Pete Ivanic, he said it started tongue in cheek after he posted a comment comparing the project to the construction of a major league ballpark. It drew 50 comments.
Ivanic said he was surprised initially by the interest when he created the page two months ago, but not anymore.
"The people of Davenport know that a facility like this is needed," he said. "It is great for recruiting. This will be great for generations to come."
Assumption pays more than $2,000 per game and forfeits concessions to play football games at Brady Street Stadium, Wade King, the school's athletic director said during the meeting.
"Assumption High School is a neighbor in favor of this project," he said. "I believe a complex like this would be far-reaching for our school."