As leaders from Saint Ambrose University wait to see if Davenport City Council will override Mayor Bill Gluba’s veto on their plans to build a stadium and sports complex, one of the school’s rivals is speaking out in support of the project.
Augustana College in Rock Island has completed two athletic facilities in the last five years. The Austin E. Knowlton Outdoor Athletic Complex was completed last year and includes a new $10 million 1,800-seat stadium.
“The new football stadium is something we feel is very important to recruiting students, but also maintaining community on campus,” Executive Vice President, Kent Barnds, told News 8’s Angie Sharp on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014. “This has been a great pride builder for the entire Augustana community and I would argue for Rock Island in general. We’ve attracted the largest crowds to football games that we’ve had since the mid-90s.”
On the other side of campus, the Thorson-Lucken Field is home to Augustana’s soccer and newly-formed lacrosse teams.
“As Augustana considered expanding the number of athletic offerings that we had and added Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse, we knew that one of the keys to fielding the best possible teams was facilities and we didn’t have a facility for lacrosse,” Barnds said.
“We’ve recruited students from all over the country to come and play lacrosse and it’s been a real benefit to the college and to our students.”
Leaders at Saint Ambrose University are looking for those same benefits. Their proposed 2,500-seat stadium and sports complex would sit close to campus on the St. Vincent Center property near the corner of West Central Park Avenue and Marquette Street.
“To have athletic facilities in such close proximity is very crucial to the recruitment efforts of St. Ambrose,” said P.J. Foley, Director of Government and Community Relations, “Currently 23 of our varsity sports play and practice at 23 different locations as far away as Muscatine.”
“Competition is always out there for students and we feel that having these top-notch facilities will help us with that competition.”
While both Barnds and Foley agree that athletics isn’t everything, the “student-athlete” is very important to their schools.
“It is very crucial to recruit those types of students,” explained Foley. “Our students in athletics have a high GPA and do very well, so standards are set high for them.”
“It is frequently through participation in athletics that students develop the important skills that serve them over the course of a lifetime – leadership, working with diverse audiences and diverse cultures, learning how to win and lose – all of these things are the skills that we endeavor to try to equip our students with as they leave our institution and that’s why athletics at places like St. Ambrose and Augustana has such an important value,” said Barnds.
In the past and present – on the field and off – the Fighting Bees and the Vikings are rivals. However, on this issue, Barnds says they’re on the same team.
“I’m a Davenport resident,” he said. “I view St. Ambrose as a competitor to Augustana at some level, but we’re certainly supportive. I’m supportive of it personally, in part, because I think it strengthens the community and it strengthens St. Ambrose and I certainly understand the competitive challenges that institutions are going to face and facilities matter.”
“It means a lot for Augustana to support us in this,” said Foley. “We’re very enthusiastic and thank them a lot for their support because higher education institutions like St. Ambrose and Augustana play a huge role here in the Quad City area both economically, but also for our students who graduate and then stay in the area.”