Ready or not, Davenport Assumption High School is kicking off a new era of football at its "Field of Dreams" Thursday night.
When the Knights open the second week of the high school football season against Dubuque Wahlert around 7:15 p.m., they will play their first regular-season game at Jack and Pat Bush Stadium on the Assumption campus.
It eventually will become a 3,000- to 3,500 seat facility that Assumption shares with St. Ambrose University.
“It is a soft opening,” Assumption football coach and activities director Wade King called it Wednesday. “We’ll try and get things figured out as we go, but a lot of people are going to be excited playing here.”
It has been a long time coming.
Assumption school president Andy Craig said the first notes and discussions he had about the project came in 2009.
After overcoming numerous obstacles, which included residents in the neighborhood balking at the idea of an athletic complex on West Central Park Ave. and a veto in 2014 from former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, the first phase of the project was completed in 2016 with two turf fields, a natural grass softball diamond and parking.
The second phase was the construction of a regulation-sized football and soccer field surrounded by an all-weather outdoor track with eight lanes, a competition area for field events along with bleachers and a structure to house concessions, restrooms and a press box.
There are parts of that still unfinished, including permanent bleachers. The school is encouraging spectators to pack a chair if coming to Thursday’s contest.
“There won’t be a ton of bleacher seating, so we’re asking people to be patient,” King said. “Once the grass fills in, we’ve got some bowl seating available. It certainly will be a little more intimate than Brady Street.
“The long-term plan is to have a full stadium St. Ambrose and Assumption can share. That’s coming. But in the meantime, this is what we have and we’re going to make the most of it.”
King hopes playing there this season can be incentive to raise the necessary funds to finish the third phase of the project, which includes a grandstand.
“In private settings, you do things as you can,” King said. “When you rely on donations and gifts, things can’t be done immediately. You have to do them in phases.”
St. Ambrose plans to continue playing its home games at Brady Street Stadium this season. Assumption felt the need to make the move now.
“As an administrator, as an athletic director or as coaches, you look for how to get kids excited,” Craig said. “This is a chance to do something at our own place. That’s exciting and unique.
“It has been a long time to wait and some of our fans thought we should try it. Sure, there will be some inconvenience with the lack of seating at first, but the convenience will be having your own lights, own facility and the excitement factor. It means a lot to the kids.”
Craig said Assumption spent $15,000 a season to rent Brady Street Stadium for four home games. There was an additional expense of having a security officer on site each game and the school never received any of the concession revenue.
“The city of Davenport has been a great host and we’re appreciative of that,” Craig said.
Assumption played Davenport Central in a scrimmage at the new facility two weeks ago. The Knights are practicing on the turf field full time, King said.
Because of the difficulty in getting officials, all of Assumption’s home games will remain on Thursday nights this season despite the change in venue.
Come game night, Craig expects an electric environment.
“There will be a lot of energy flowing through here,” he said. “It will be a different type of busy than what we’re used to, but a good type of busy moving into a new house.
“Logistically, we’re knee-deep in it right now, but it is going to be fun and right here on campus. It will have a small-town atmosphere like you see with eight-man and small school games where people are standing around watching the game."
King said Assumption fans are asked to park in the student lot next to the school. Visiting spectators will park at the St. Vincent Athletic Complex softball facility and walk across the bridge over the creek into the stadium. Concessions will be available.
The Knights also will start a new tradition.
Prior to entering the field for warmups, Assumption will have students, parents and fans line the path from Assumption’s football locker room to the south entrance of the field as the players walk through.
“We don’t know how everything is going to work,” King said. “As far as what it does (for our team), we hope it provides energy and not a distraction. We talked about that this week. We want to make sure it is a positive thing for us.
“Our hope is it creates a home-field advantage and our players have a lot of confidence when they play here.”