Quad Cities Gets An Unexpected Three Week Road Trip
When Opening Day arrived, the sun was shining. The grass was green. And Modern Woodmen Park, home of the low Class A Quad Cities River Bandits, was ready and waiting.
There was only one problem. No one could get into the ballpark.
The flooding that struck the Midwest forced the River Bandits to begin the Midwest League season with a 21-game road trip, even though their home park remained dry throughout those three weeks.
The Mississippi River that has long given Quad Cities fans one of the most picturesque views in baseball regularly escapes its banks during the spring. Because of that, the team and the city of Davenport, Iowa, have long planned for the possibility.
Upgrades 15 years ago built a berm around the park that helps keeps the flood waters out. And with flood walls, the park remained dry throughout the flooding.
The city and the team had prepared for situations just like this one. Years ago, the city of Davenport figured out a way to build temporary bridging that would allow fans to get to Modern Woodmen. That bridging would be put down to get fans from dry parking over railroad tracks and into the park. And putting the temporary bridging over the railroad tracks wasn’t a problem because if the river was flooded, it would force the railroad to shut down running on its tracks for safety reasons.
There was only one problem. In between the hatching of the plan and now, the railroad worked out a way to continue to run on the train tracks even as the river rose into flood stages.
With a running railroad, the city couldn’t put up its temporary bridges—they block the railroad tracks. Without the bridges, the fans, players and team employees can’t get into the park without wading through the overflowing river.
And so Jacqueline Holm, in her first year as Quad Cities general manager, has had one of the wildest first months a GM could ever experience. She had a dry ballpark ready to host baseball. She and the city had a plan to get fans into that park. But she had to tell the Midwest League that they couldn’t host their home games because they can’t get from the parking lots to the ballpark.
“It’s very strange. This is definitely a unique start,” Holm said. “Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine this would happen.”
Because no one can accurately predict how high the river would be more than three to five days out, Quad Cities had to make its decisions just a few days before each scheduled homestand. Thankfully for the River Bandits, their first scheduled home games were against nearby teams. The leagues and the teams were accommodating. The River Bandits’ opponents agreed to host the games. And since they were nearby, the Quad Cities team just bussed up and back each day of the games.
But there are plenty of bigger hiccups that come when a team arrives to find their ballpark inaccessible. The River Bandits had to find somewhere to store five pallets of equipment coming up from the Astros’ facilities in Florida. Holm said the Davenport Public Works department found some storage space to let the club store the pitching machines, bats and other equipment that comes with operating a minor league franchise. The food orders for the club’s first homestands were stopped before they were ever delivered, so the club managed to avoid that expense.
The team offices are in the ballpark, so after donning waders to get through the flood waters one time to get in and remove anything they needed to work, the staff began working remotely. The local YMCA offered a communal work space for the times when Holm needed to get the staff together.
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When the River Bandits have needed help, they’ve found the community willing to go the extra step to make a tough situation a little easier.
“It’s shown me the support of the community,” Holm said. “It’s impressive how everyone has reached out to try to help us.”
The team was hopeful it would be able to get back in the ballpark for its four-game homestand against Clinton starting on April 25. But even if that did happen, the club would have played 26 of its first 30 games on the road.
And Quad Cities has already lost nine home dates, which is 13 percent of the team’s 70 home dates for the season. No team in the Midwest League lost more than seven home dates all of last season, and the average club lost four games to weather. With most of the season left, Quad Cities is likely to be the first Midwest League to lose 10 or more dates in the past 15 years.
But Holm is looking at the positives. Because the team kept having to push back Opening Day at home, she said that fans’ anticipation continued to grow. She said she thought it would be tougher if the River Bandits had opened the park for one or two games and then had to hit the road for the month.
“We have continued to build excitement for Opening Day because it hasn’t happened yet,” Holm said. “People are very interested in the season getting started."