— Matt Nelson
There is one thing that is indisputable about Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits. It offers baseball fans the best view in the Midwest League, and one of the best anywhere in minor league baseball.
Municipal Stadium opened in 1931. It later became John O’Donnell Stadium. Then most of that park was torn down after 2003, the exception being the facade of the ballpark. Home plate is pretty much where it was before, so depending on how you want to look at it, the ballpark is either the oldest in the league, or one of the newer ones. I say it’s one of the newer ones. Yes, parts of it date back to the ’30’s, but the park feels like it was built in the last ten years.
The River Bandits are an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals (although the affiliation has bounced around…it was a Twins affiliate for several years, including 2002 when Joe Mauer spent his season in Davenport) which makes sense since Davenport is about 275 miles north of St. Louis right on the Mississippi River (don’t forget, AAA Memphis is also on the river!). And not only is Davenport on the Mississippi, the ballpark is too. And sometimes, the ballpark has had the misfortune of being in the Mississippi.
Located on the edge of downtown Davenport, Modern Woodmen Park is literally just feet from the river. Barry Bonds, steroids or not, could hit one into the river, most minor leaguers can’t. In addition to having the river right by the park, the Centennial Bridge adds to the backdrop, especially when the lights come on at night.
It is a fantastic location and view, one that is a rare find in baseball. The problem of course is the spring flooding. Modern Woodmen Park has flooded several times in its history. This has resulted in the team playing games at the home of the Clinton Lumberkings, the home of the Iowa Hawkeyes, and several high school fields in and around Davenport. With the aforementioned renovations that were done in 2004, the club added a berm in the outfield to help protect the stadium, as well as building some walls and doing other flood-preparation work.
All of that work was put to the test in 2008 when flood waters rose. These were not “over the outfield fence” flood waters like the ballpark had experienced in the past, but they were significant amounts of water. The team built a wooden platform to get fans into the ballpark, which looked like an island. That worked for a game or two, but then for safety reasons it was decided that some of the River Bandits home games would need to be moved. That said, the waters didn’t damage the field, so the team was able to return much sooner than in other years when the field was submerged for an extended period of time.
Modern Woodmen Park has many nice features including lots of outfield grass seating, a 360-degree concourse so you can check things out from any angle, restaurant and bar areas and much more. The River Bandits organization deserves a lot of credit as they really do a good job of coming up with promotions and other unique ideas to get people out to the ballpark. This even includes movie night on the outfield grass on weekends when the team is on the road.
Modern Woodmen Park is a great place to watch a game. There’s a lot to like about this park, but by far and away the biggest thing to like is the spectacular location on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Be sure to check out the video reports from Davenport by clicking here.