Flooding Forces River Bandits to the Road

The swollen Mississippi River has Modern Woodmen Park surrounded.

Yet the home of the Quad Cities River Bandits remained dry despite floodwaters that crested around 19 feet (roughly three feet shy of the record) this morning and has the city of Davenport packing sandbags and planning routes around the worst flooding to hit the area in nearly seven years. City-funded floodwalls were built beyond the outfield walls as part of a $10 million ballpark renovation project in 2004. Previous storms had left the stadium underwater—a 2001 flood left the team to play a significant portion of its schedule at a local community college.

"We’re a little bit of an island right now," said first-year Quad Cities general manager Kirk Goodman, who has experience in natural disasters after five years as GM for Double-A Jacksonville. "I’m used to watching hurricane forecasts . . . This is something that will go in my memoirs."

Yet despite the green oasis amid muddy waters—Quad Cities groundkeepers turned on sprinklers in the outfield grass this morning—no baseball is to be played in Davenport. The River Bandits three-game homestand against Lansing has been scattered to drier refuge in surrounding Iowa communities.

Fellow Midwest League affiliate Cedar Rapids came to the rescue last night and hosted the River Bandits and Lugnuts at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The two teams headed 40 miles north to Clinton to play a noon game today at the home of the Lumberkings, and tomorrow evening they are scheduled to play at the University of Iowa’s home ballpark in Iowa City.

"We know what kind of friends we have in the baseball community here, between the guys in the Midwest League and the University of Iowa," Goodman said. "It’s a warm feeling to know the support we have from the baseball community."

Measures have been taken to provide access to Modern Woodmen Park. The city of Davenport built a 100-foot scaffolding walkway to the ballpark from dry land just beyond the railroad tracks north of the playing field. Team employees reported to work this morning, yet Midwest League commissioner George Spelius, a veteran of three floods in his 22 years of his service, is taking a cautious approach to resuming game action.

"The main worry is the safety thing," Spelius said. "With people coming to the ballpark, players coming to the ballpark, getting equipment into the ballpark, i just didn’t think it was (a good idea). I’d hate to have someone get injured."

Melting snow and runoff from north of the Quad Cities area, combined with recent rainy conditions, has been the cause of the flooding. No rain is predicted in the immediate future, and local officials expect the river to reach its crest shortly.

The River Bandits leave for a six-game road trip following tomorrow’s game, and are hoping to return to better conditions when they return for a four-game homestand with Kane County.

"The city of Davenport has been trying to do everything it can to try and get us to play here because they wanted to show that the field is serviceable even when surrounded by water," Goodman said.