St. Ambrose stadium zoning hearing draws hundreds

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St. Ambrose University took its proposal for a 2,500-seat stadium and athletic complex to Davenport's Plan and Zoning Commission Tuesday night before a standing-room-only crowd.

Nearly 500 people packed the RiverCenter's Great Hall for a public hearing on the project.

The university wants to build a sports complex around the St. Vincent’s property off West Central Park Avenue, next to Assumption High School. The site currently holds a softball field, two practice soccer/football fields, and a competition soccer field.

SAU hopes to upgrade the softball field and two practice fields, and build a 2,500-seat stadium with a 400-meter track, shot put/discus area, and parking for 410 cars.

Tuesday night, supporters of the project wore blue 'SAU Yes' stickers. Among them was Dan Zeimet, the head cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at SAU.

"It would definitely help in recruiting. For our sports, not having a track on or close to our campus is a disadvantage for us," said Zeimet. "We definitely would like a place to call home."

The stadium would also host football games and track meets for neighboring Assumption High School.

"I think it would be a great thing for the University to compete on the national level, to recruit students to our university, and also for my sons, who potentially could be playing football or track at Assumption," said Mary Jo Bloominger.

Neighbors of the proposed site also showed up in numbers Tuesday to voice their concerns about the project.

"They're trying to put this big stadium in a small area. There's no place for them there to even expand, and all they're going to do is tear up a really nice neighborhood," said Jacklynn Draper, who lives four houses from the current practice fields.

Worries from neighbors included traffic, water runoff, noise, and potential tailgating from students.

"It's going to happen, and it should happen for kids -- that's part of the game. It's just not a good, safe location for that either," said neighbor Dick Lee.

St. Ambrose leaders, though, said they have addressed those concerns after nearly 20 meetings with neighbors, making compromises along the way.

"We take special pride in the fact that we are not just in Davenport, but are a vital part of Davenport," said Sister Joan Lescinski, St. Ambrose President.

The Plan and Zoning Commission will make a recommendation on the project at its May 20th meeting. The plan then heads to the City Council for approval.