An overflow crowd is expected for Opening Day at low Class A Quad Cities. Unfortunately, an overflowing Mississippi River is in the forecast, too.
Planning for Opening Day is challenging enough without the wrinkle of a potential record-breaking flood, but that is how River Bandits general manager Kirk Goodman spent the weeks leading up to Thursday’s game against the Beloit Snappers.
The previously dire predictions of the Mississippi swelling up to 10 feet above flood levels have been scaled back thanks to a recent cold stretch that slowed the snowmelt further north up the river in Minnesota. But the river is still expected to reach 16 feet, roughly 1 foot above flood level, and create an inconvenience on Opening Day with the potential of more to come later this spring.
The River Bandits' plan for Thursday: play on.
“Our ballpark will still be functional during a flood,” Goodman said.
That functionality is a credit to the $2 million offseason project that expanded the ballpark’s flood protection system, which has helped keep it dry during the most recent floods. A new flood wall featuring portable barriers that should protect the ballpark in floodwaters up to 24 feet was built on the north side of the facility, nearest the Mississippi River. The plaza in front of the stadium was replaced with an impermeable concrete plaza.
A second phase of the construction is expected to continue during the season and will include an earthen berm and pedestrian walkway that fans will be able to use to enter and exit the ballpark in times of floods.
Goodman expects this week’s flooding to be an inconvenience for fans – they likely won’t be able to use the regular parking lots across the street from the ballpark – but should not jeopardize the games.
“We should be able to withstand it and be fine,” said Goodman, noting that that will mark the third year of flooding in the four years since Opening Day Partners purchased the team. “It will be a memorable experience for our fans to come to a game at a ballpark that is basically an island.”