Government

Sweet relief: New flood control plans include bathrooms for McGrath Amphitheatre

Roller gates, hybrid flood wall among other aspects of system Cedar Rapids will highlight at open houses

The McGrath Amphitheatre is seen in August 2013 in Cedar Rapids. The amphitheater has been criticized for its lack of permanent bathrooms. The city of Cedar Rapids now is planning to add a two-story structure with public restrooms on the second story and storage on the first. It will address the restroom criticism and double as part of the city’s flood control system. (Gazette file photo)
The McGrath Amphitheatre is seen in August 2013 in Cedar Rapids. The amphitheater has been criticized for its lack of permanent bathrooms. The city of Cedar Rapids now is planning to add a two-story structure with public restrooms on the second story and storage on the first. It will address the restroom criticism and double as part of the city’s flood control system. (Gazette file photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — One of the criticisms of the McGrath Amphitheatre is the lack of permanent bathrooms, so when concertgoers are enjoying Willie Nelson or Boys II Men they do so under a rainbow of portable toilets.

Officials designing the Cedar Rapids flood protection system — in which the amphitheater doubles as a levee — have a solution. They plan to incorporate a two-story structure with public restrooms on the second floor and floodable storage space for the venue on the first.

“It will be able to support a show of 2,000 people,” said Rob Davis, Cedar Rapids flood control manager.

That’s enough capacity to handle all but a few events each year.

This is part of a larger project to replace the Eighth Avenue bridge over the Cedar River and one of several new details related to the flood control system city officials plan to highlight during a series of open houses this year.

The first open house is scheduled for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, with brief presentations at 4:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, 501 First St. SE. A second open house is planned for the fall, and specifics for that will be announced later.

On Thursday, residents also will be able to review a few design options for an overhead arch marking the entryway to the NewBo District at the 16th Avenue Bridge. A separate arch is being planned for Czech Village.

Renderings of a roller gate project in which the gate will stay tucked behind the adjacent flood wall and roll into place atop 16th Avenue near the bridge only during high water also will be available.

Concepts of removable, stackable panels that will serve as the floodgate for Third Avenue SE, a plaza planned behind the old Smulekoff’s Building, and a new bridge and recreation trail over and under Shaver Road NE near Cedar Lake and McLoud Run also will be on display.

In the downtown area on the east side of the Cedar River, officials now are planning a hybrid removal flood wall, instead of a fully removable one. A permanent 3.5-foot-tall knee wall could handle most flood events as is, and in extreme flooding a removable system could be stacked on top.

In other communities, the knee wall design doubles as public benches or other functional uses.

“The flood control system is not something we are going to use very often, so really you should design the everyday use first and the flood system around it,” Davis said.

Many of the design changes also are intended to reduce the setup time such that it takes the full system less than 48 hours to be erected during a flood emergency, Davis said.

The 16th Avenue roller gate, Third Avenue SE removable gate, a levee in parking lot 44 near the African-American Museum of Iowa, and two additional pumps each in the lot 44 and Sinclair pump stations are scheduled for next year. The NewBo archway is on deck for 2021 and the other projects either don’t have timelines yet or are further out.

One less glamorous project that should be completed next year is on the west side of the river south of Czech Village. Officials are planning to install a sewer gate. The $1.4 million project should allow officials to close the gate to prevent river water from backing up underground and flooding the city through sewer pipes and manhole covers.

During recent floods, city crews have spent countless hours securing manhole covers and drains, and this project should minimize that work.

“It will save a lot of man hours during elevated river levels,” said Emily Breen, a spokeswoman for the public works department.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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