City Park-area adjusts during wait for floodwaters to recede

Director hopes the park will be open for use by July 1

A duck swims across field two as floodwaters inundate field two in Lower City Park Monday, June 10, 2013 in Iowa City. (
A duck swims across field two as floodwaters inundate field two in Lower City Park Monday, June 10, 2013 in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

Baseball players and actors who practice along the Iowa River aren't letting a little floodwater ruin their performances roughly two weeks after the Army Corps of Engineers increased outflows at the Coralville dam due to flooding conditions.

Even though multiple baseball diamonds and the area near Riverside Theatre remained at least partially submerged in water Monday afternoon, Iowa City Parks Director Mike Moran said he hopes the park will be open for use by July 1.

Meanwhile, Jody Hovland, artistic director at Riverside Theatre, said all summer shows — which include Hamlet and Sheridan’s comedy The School for Scandal — will be relocated to West High School. Though Hovland said those involved are saddened they won’t be able to perform under the moon, she added the group is grateful that both shows are able to go on.

"We've had our work cut out for us, but everyone has said an enthusiastic yes to not only the challenge, but the opportunity, and we're really looking at this as such a gift," Hovland said. "The most important thing was saving the work of the plays and these great stories we have to tell and we've done that."

Just as the crew had completed weeks of construction of the set, Hovland said the theatre got notice they would need to evacuate the area, meaning not only that the set would need to be pulled out in a matter of hours, but that the play would need to be completely redesigned — from set to stage blocking — in order to be performed in a new venue.

However, Hovland said the group is grateful the school district was able to provide a venue to allow the shows to go on, adding they would be worried about the weather forecast if they were still looking to perform at their original, outdoor location.

"If we were in the park we would just have a different category of worry because we would be attached to and casting our eyes skyward all the time, so there are guarantees with an indoor space," Hovland said. "We think those things will actually counter the disappointment of not being able to play under the moon — we have air conditioning and no gnats, so that's the upside."

For those who still wish to view a little outdoor theater, Hovland added that there will be brief, 20-minute "Green Show" versions of the plays on the lawn in front of West High one hour before each main performance.

The Iowa City Boys baseball league, which consists of about 325 players and 28 teams,  has also managed to re-locate from City Park to Napoleon and Mercer Parks in Iowa City after the flooding at City Park. Luke Villhauer, president of the Iowa City Baseball board of directors, said each league will likely lose at least five games due to flooding and the season will be cut about a week short. However, he said he's glad the teams will still be able to play most of their games.

"It's frustrating, but all in all it's working out much better. I was a coach five years ago in 2008 when we got to about the same time of year and we were just done for the year and that was frustrating," Villhauer said. "We're excited to have the opportunity to finish up the season and to have a home for where, we are at least consistently playing our games in one park."

Though the summer season concludes at the end of June, Villhauer said he expects the baseball league will be able to be back in City Park by the time the fall season begins.

Weather permitting, officials with the Corps said they expect to decrease outflows at the Coralville dam to 10,000 cubic feet per second by Sunday, at which point Moran said floodwaters at the park should begin to significantly decrease. Moran said standing water begins to damage things like grass and trees after about 21 days, at which point the city would need to re-seed and re-soil the affected areas. If the outflows are decreased by Sunday, the standing water would have been at the park about 18 days.

For now, he said everything has been pulled out of City Park through the end of the month — including shelter reservations, which have been relocated — and the park will make adjustments for July, if they become necessary."It's all a waiting game," Moran said.

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