When the Quad Cities River Bandits baseball season ended a week ago, construction season began at Modern Woodmen Park.
Three offseason projects are underway, all scheduled to be completed before the first pitch of the 2022 season is thrown at the High-A Central League champion’s April 12 home opener.
In a project approved by the Davenport City Council in August, home and visiting clubhouse areas are being renovated and expanded to meet new requirements of Major League Baseball. All will be in areas that will be inside expanded flood protection at the facility.
The installation of a new HVAC system will facilitate renovations and remodeling the ballpark’s suite-level reception and meeting spaces and the third project will replace fascia board that connects the roof to the stadium structure.
“There will be a lot of work going on during the offseason at the ballpark and we’re excited to move forward on these projects,’’ River Bandits owner Dave Heller said.
The majority of the work is designed to meet new stadium standards that accompanied Major League Baseball’s reorganization of its player development system that reduced the number of minor-league teams across the country from 160 to 120.
Teams that remained in the game are required to meet the new standards as part of 10-year player development license requirements.
As part of a project with an overall price tag of more than $5.1 million, Davenport city leaders signed off in August on more than $2 million in work to build a floodwall designed to protect areas of Modern Woodmen Park that were left unprotected during a 2004 renovation of the facility.
That area, generally located on northeast portion of the property, will house batting cages that previously were subjected to rising Mississippi River floodwaters as well as a new structure that will house areas that put the River Bandits in compliance with the new stadium standards.
“The City of Davenport made a commitment to the River Bandits, the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball to meet the facility standards and the city of Davenport is honoring its commitment,’’ Heller said.
To meet those standards, both visiting and home clubhouse areas at Modern Woodmen Park are being expanded.
The visitor’s clubhouse will be expanded by an extra 400 square feet, space that will be carved out of existing front-office space.
The additional space will allow for the visiting team locker room to be expanded through the relocation of a training room. Space for visitor player dining, a kitchen and a female coaches locker room will also be located in former front-office space.
In the River Bandits’ clubhouse, existing training room space will be renovated to accommodate coaches lockers and a meeting room.
The existing coaches locker room will become the manager’s office and the existing manager’s office will become a female coaches locker room, among major-league requirements as the number of female coaches in the game grows.
“With major-league teams increasing the number of roving instructors who specialize in specific segments of the game, there are Royals personnel here almost weekly in addition to our coaching staff,’’ Heller said. “There is a need for additional room for the coaches and this will accommodate that.’’
Player rosters have expanded as well, growing from 25 to 30 players this past season. The existing River Bandits home locker room has enough lockers to accommodate that, but the visitors’ locker room will be expanded to meet the needs.
Existing kitchen and laundry room space in the River Bandits clubhouse remains unchanged and a nearby area that has been used for storage will be converted into a players dining room.
New construction will be built to the east of the River Bandits clubhouse, located beneath a concession stand, game room and amusements area on the concourse level.
The new construction will house two relocated batting cages as well as a video room, offices for the team nutritionist and trainer and a new River Bandits training room.
At the east end of the new structure will be space dedicated for strength and conditioning work that will be utilized by both the home and visiting teams, among new major-league requirements, and storage space for use by the Royals.
In designing the new space, Heller said the Kansas City Royals have been a partner with the River Bandits.
“Kansas City has been consulted at every step along the way and they’ve agreed to everything that is being done,’’ Heller said. “This is a true partnership. We have a terrific relationship with the Royals and we’re working to make this the finest facility in their organization.’’
The need for a new heating and cooling system at Modern Woodmen Park is helping Heller meet a goal of creating a more wide-open space on suite level that highlights the historic architecture of the 92-year-old ballpark façade.
A drop ceiling will be removed, uncovering windows and creating a more open feel for areas used to host receptions, meetings and banquets throughout the year.
“About 40 percent of the windows are currently hidden behind the drop ceiling,’’ Heller said. “The need to replace an 18-year-old heating and cooling system that had an expected 15-year lifespan is allowing us to open things up and create a grand new space for people to meet and gather. We’re excited about that project.’’
Heller expects the suite-level area to host around 200 events per year once renovations are complete and the HVAC system has been relocated to the roof of the ballpark.
The final project replaces fascia board along the roof line of the ballpark in front of suites. Sharply-hit foul balls both during games and batting practice as well time have chipped away at the existing board.
The board not only provides a decorative look but also serves the function of connecting the top of the structure to the ballpark roof.
“It may not seem that long, but it’s been 18 years since the ballpark was renovated,’’ Heller said. “Replacing the fascia board is something that needs to be done.’’