The two, new athletic fields built at Augustana College in the past five years have made a great difference for our students and the community. St. Ambrose University desires the opportunity to do the same by building a first-class athletic complex near campus.

In 2011, Augustana opened Thorson-Lucken Field, an artificially-turfed and well-lit soccer/lacrosse field with a grandstand across the street from a residential neighborhood. Like St. Ambrose University, we worked with our neighbors to address concerns about parking and lighting. Then, in 2013, we opened the Austin E. Knowlton Outdoor Athletic Complex, a $10 million project upgrading our football field and track.

Both projects have had a tremendously positive impact on Augustana. We’ve recruited nearly 100 students to play men’s and women’s lacrosse. The number of football recruits coming to Augustana is up considerably with the completion of the new football stadium. Football game days draw not only our own students, but also hundreds of community members. For many in our community, there is nothing better than a football game on a crisp fall day – particularly at colleges that put the word “student” first in the term “student-athlete.” Fans enjoy knowing that those playing football today likely will graduate within four years and become tomorrow’s doctors, engineers, teachers, and community leaders.

Augustana and St. Ambrose enjoy approximately the same size undergraduate enrollment of 2,500-2,750 students. We sponsor the same number of varsity sports, and strong athletic programs are critical to the continued success of both institutions. About one-third of Augustana first-year students intend to play varsity or club sports. Many would not enroll at Augustana if we did not sponsor their sport. And without competitive facilities on or adjacent to campus, it is impossible to attract high-quality student-athletes. Excellent facilities help retain student-athletes for their full four years until graduation.

I know many of our student-athletes and can attest that Vince Lombardi was right when he said, “Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and respect for authority.” Preparation for the “game of life” is not limited to football. Each varsity sport gives students the grit, determination, and leadership that America needs in a new generation of leaders.

Strong facilities for football and men’s athletics are particularly important. Many have observed that too few young men are going to college. Since the late 1970s, more women than men enroll in college. Nationally, men account for only 43 percent of the college-going population – roughly the same proportion attends Augustana and St. Ambrose. Robust football and men’s track programs, in particular, are critical to maintaining male enrollment and helping ensure young men earn college degrees. High-quality athletics facilities also bring more geographic and multicultural diversity to campus, promoting the greater perspective and balance so important to our students’ learning outcomes.

The Quad-Cities is becoming a college town, enrolling more than 30,000 full- and part-time students. Several thousand people also are employed full- or part-time at our colleges and universities. Quad-Citians enjoy a rich diversity of higher-education opportunities – two independent colleges (each with 130-year-plus histories in our community), two successful community colleges, a newly expanding branch of a regional public university, and specialty colleges of nursing and chiropractic. Together, we make it easy to be a life-long learner in the Quad Cities.

Our colleges and universities contribute to a culturally rich, innovation-centered community. Let’s embrace our colleges by allowing them to maintain their competitive edge, their enrollment of high-quality students and their ability to help these students grow in mind, spirit and body. And let’s recognize that quality athletic fields – adjacent or near to campus – are one of the most important keys to doing so.

Steve Bahls

Rock Island

Steve Bahls is in his eleventh year as President of Augustana College.

(10) comments


Hey Glen Armil: This SAU build is going to happen regardless of what you and your neighbors do or say. It was going to happen when the idea was first conceived. This was a politically influenced machine from the get go. Are you guys so naive to believe differently. My advice is to roll with the punches and embrace change. By doing so, you’ll probably add years to your life versus take them away. You guys just drew this out and tormented yourself by delaying this process. Accept and adjust or sell your house to a "rich fat cat" and get the heck out of dodge. Regardless this is going to happen, Amen!! You neighbors are probably going to be the same people sitting on your lawns with shot guns on game days after this complex is built…protesting and cause yourself a bunch of unneeded drama. Never ceases to amaze me how up and arms people get over something so trivial. It’s sad that you guys automatically assume the worst.

Glen Armil

Well said from a man whose home is not disturbed by such a development. An utterly eloquent and beautifully written article. Is his home over-run by such? Nope. Does he have college students peeing in his yard? Nope. Does he have traffic problems on his street? Nope. Well, heck. I'd be in favor of that then, too.

An Augie Grad

Actually, President Bahls' home is on Augie's campus. He certainly gets college students peeing in his yard, and worse as the result of college pranks, I'm sure.

A new athletic complex will add value to St. Ambrose and thus value to your property. Think of all the things that could be developed on that space besides a place for the community to gather. We're lucky they are looking to add a valuable resource to the area.

Glen Armil

Really? I'm not buying it. And no, if you know real estate - this does not "add value" to my property. It makes it nearly unsalable and undesirable. Unless sold to a rich cat from suburban Chicago that makes it yet another rental house. Again - if you don't live in this neighborhood - you have no idea and are ill informed.

NDFan 27

Glen Armil, there are ZERO studies to support your idea that this project would make your property "nearly unsalable". However, no one would expect you to know anything about studies anyway since none of you neighbors have listened to any of the PROFESSIONAL studies performed anyway. Just because one doesn't live in the neighborhood, doesn't mean one is ill informed. Heck, you DO live in the neighborhood, and you are the ones that are more ill informed than anyone else because none of you will listen to reason. And it's a shame that your idea of "if you don't live in the neighborhood, your vote doesn't count" holds zero weight. It seems that one set of votes, votes that DO matter, has already been counted in favor of the stadium. One more round of voting to go from those that matter (not you and your neighbors) before SAU breaks ground.


People who move into a neighborhood with a college campus should know that neighborhood is going to reflect the college environment. That is what entices some of them in the first place, then they want to keep it from ever changing. The college either improves its facilities and stays relevant, or it declines. There is no other choice. Does anyone who lives in this area not understand what it is like around Iowa City on a Saturday in the fall when it is football season? You know the place is going to be jamming, it is a given. Don't move into that area if that is a problem for you. You can say the same thing about the high schools. You know you are going to have kids and crowds around our local high schools. The area around RI HS is quite active on a Friday night when there is a home game. It has been that way my whole life. If you are so old and stodgy that you can't handle it, you better move to a quiet place.

Glen Armil

Where do you live?

Glen Armil

Comparing SAU and the U of I is patently silly. For years, SAU existed in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood. Well, other than posting "No Trespassing!" signs on the St Vincent property where I walked my dogs for years. Yes! This is a civic development.....except..........."NO TRESPASSING!" But now they want more more more. money money money. What happened to just education?

Again, I respectfully challenge anyone posting here to declare where they live. If you don't live in the neighborhood that will be ruined by this mess - your vote doesn't coun

Glen Armil

Where do you live?

Glen Armil

I wouldn't consider myself "old and stodgy." I am 48 years old, a graduate of both UNI (undergrad) and the U of I (Masters). I've seen enough BS marketing to know that Mr. Poster is full of poo. This is a sham, first and foremost. You really owe it to yourself to educate yourself on a given issue before letting your mouth open and stupid stuff fall out.

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