By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Last week’s derecho storm burst the bubble at St. Ambrose University’s soft-covered dome sports facility located off campus on north Brady Street. Just before the storm struck mid-afternoon Aug. 10, Tony Huntley, SAU director of athletic facilities, headed to the sports dome, also referred to as the “bubble,” to put in a sanitation station for teams to use.
“I was just about to unlock the revolving door when the wind started to really pick up and the wind picked the entire door unit off the ground about 6 to 8 inches with me in it. When it set back on the ground, I ran back to my car to be safe. The winds were so hard that it was rocking my Yukon and at times I thought it might roll.” The powerful winds amazed Huntley. They kept “pounding for about 45 minutes to an hour.”
During those high winds, the dome ripped open. “I would say that with the really high winds and force being put on it for a long period time — something had to give.” The dome blew around like a parachute for more than five minutes and then dropped to the ground. Thankfully, no one was inside.
Workers had installed new turf in mid-May and Huntley and two other baseball coaches had been cleaning and organizing the facility in preparation for the new school year. Band camp and soccer programs planned to use the facility that week. The academic year began Aug. 17, and “we would have had several of our programs using it to get some work in.” Baseball, lacrosse, soccer and football use the dome for practice, especially during inclement weather.
Estimated cost of repairing or replacing the dome was not available at press time. Huntley hopes just the west section of the three-panel dome will have to be replaced. New batting cages and the cable system, new protective netting and dividers will have to be remade. Other repairs will be necessary, along with creation of a new tarp featuring a mural of athletes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the wait for an insurance estimate will determine when the dome will be ready for use again. “We are all in this together so everyone — every sport — will have to make some sacrifices to get everyone some practice time,” Huntley said. “There is not much we could have done against those winds. Now I know what it is like to be in a hurricane.”
Five years ago, the dome collapsed under the pressure of heavy snow and ice.
Storm damage on St. Ambrose University’s main campus on Locust Street consisted of downed trees and branches, said Jim Hannon, physical plant director. Several homes the university owns sustained minor damage. The roof of the school’s observatory, located in Clinton County, sustained a lot of wind damage and will need to be replaced.
Craig DeVrieze, director of communications, said the storm affected several-hundred students who moved on campus Aug. 9. The university rescheduled the move for other students. He said students, staff and administrators went into the surrounding neighborhoods to assist with storm cleanup. “Their help was warmly received and very much appreciated.”