A wooded area near Duck Creek that once served as the headquarters of the Diocese of Davenport is on the design board for a $30 million athletic complex for St. Ambrose University.

 The university bought the 45-acre property just off West Central Park Avenue in July 2009 for $3.35 million. The property, also known as the St. Vincent Center, had been managed by a trustee after the diocese went into bankruptcy.

University officials already have shared a “preliminary vision” for the property with neighbors. 

The plan calls for a 5,000-seat football stadium with a track as well as a baseball field, softball field, two collegiate soccer fields, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, tennis courts, three practice fields and more than 1,000 parking spaces, said Tim Phillips, dean of students. 

It also includes restrooms, concessions, a storage building, weight room and athletic offices.

Construction on those facilities could begin within the next two years, along with 425 parking spaces, a softball field, sand volleyball courts and three practice fields. A construction timetable for the stadium and other fields has not yet been set, Phillips said, adding a capital campaign may be necessary.

The property is zoned residential and any development would require special-use permits from the city. Already, plans for a 108-space parking lot are set to go before the Davenport Zoning Board of Adjustment, and neighbors say that’s just the tip of the iceberg that would change the neighborhood.

“The big thing is this first step,” said Jeanne Christensen, a concerned neighbor who lives in the 2900 block of Gaines Street. “There’s definitely more to come.”

The total cost at build-out could top $30 million, Phillips said. The college, which currently uses Brady Street Stadium and 10 other off-site locations for sports, needs facilities of its own, he added.

The zoning board is set to discuss the 108-space parking lot, which could be built next year at 720 W. Central Park Ave., at its July 21 meeting. The issue is being pushed back two weeks from the original agenda at today’s board meeting.

City staff has recommended the university hire a consultant to do an analysis of its parking needs, adding “it’s past due time” in a staff report.

In an unrelated matter, the university also wants to build a 200-bed dormitory and construct a 23-space parking lot at Harrison and Lombard streets, on its main campus. That issue also is set to be taken up by the Zoning Board of Adjustment on July 21.

The college has more than 1,500 parking spaces on campus and the new lot on the St. Vincent Center property is necessary to replace the spots which will be gone when the dormitory is built, Phillips said.

Phillips said about 200 students wanted to live in campus housing this year but could not. The new dormitory could accommodate them and also keep more students on campus, which Phillips said neighbors prefer.

Neighbors near the St. Vincent property say they are concerned about safety, quality of life issues, decreases in property values, traffic, parking, noise and light pollution, loss of green space, increased storm water runoff and flooding problems. Phillips said the university wants to be a good neighbor, which is why it is informing residents of its plans early on.

“We want to listen, hear and understand, so in the end we come up with creative ways to make this a community asset,” he said.

The university would work to improve runoff issues on the property and come up with parking and traffic plans, he added. Hours of usage also would be limited to reduce noise and light pollution.

Phillips said the university and Assumption High School already use the St. Vincent property as a practice field and for intramural sports. He said the ample parking in the new plan would help alleviate parking concerns that already exist in the neighborhood. “It has the potential to answer some concerns.”

The sports facilities likely would be shared with Assumption, Phillips said.

Christensen, who spent the weekend passing out about 100 fliers to let neighbors know of St. Ambrose’s plans, said her home is located “off the beaten path.”

“I’ve got woods back there and a creek that runs through it. With this, the woods will all be gone. I’ll have a parking lot right up to my lot line,” she said.

She also is not convinced that parking will be sufficient for a 5,000-seat stadium and other amenities. “You know that not everybody is going to park there. They’re going to be parking on our residential streets, which were not made for a lot of traffic.”

Christensen also is worried about safety. “I want to know what they’re going to do about law enforcement at that stadium,” she said. “In a stadium like that, anything can happen.”

Margaret Osborn, who also lives near the St. Vincent property, said she fears the development would take over the entire neighborhood. She said the college informed residents in January that they would be using the property as practice fields and was surprised when Phillips unveiled the new vision at the most recent of the neighborhood meetings it holds twice a year with Ambrose neighbors.

“Everyone was stunned and amazed,” Osborn said. “It’s a full-blown Club Med for the university.”