Guest Opinion | Former Hawkeye Marching Band field should remain undeveloped

The Hawkeye Marching Band’s former field provides opportunities for Iowa City residents.

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Jeff Sigmund

The University of Iowa Marching Band’s old practice field is seen on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.


The University of Iowa provides many of us with a source of culture and an ongoing mission for education, research, and health care. This benefits the general population of Iowa City and surrounding areas. Thus, we wish this institution continued success, as it continues to maintain its contributions under increasing financial pressure. However, many of us in Manville Heights and in the wider community have been devastated to hear the university plans to develop the former Hawkeye Marching Band Field.

Given the circumstances surrounding the upkeep of the band field as well as the existing structures on the east side of the property, I understand the logic of dispensing with expenditures that do not currently support the academic needs of the university. This obviously could change at a future point in time. As the property was acquired in six different stages between 1944 and 1977, it could conceivably be sold as separate parcels as well.

I strongly encourage the UI Planning Commission to consider what was repeatedly suggested at the meeting on Aug. 25; namely, to divide the property between east/west regarding potential development. There is a natural division between the east acreages (which have already been built upon) and those to the west (which is simply a lovely open field, with one separate acre to the west of Ferson Avenue), formerly known as “Boots Lot.”

Among the people with whom I have spoken, there seems to be a strong and growing consensus that suggests the following compromise: all property on the eastern part (that is the defunct Riverview dorm including the immense parking lot, and the three rental properties, excepting the historic Kuhl House) could be opened for creative re-development.

However, the former marching band field, which has been a beloved green lung for recreation and sports for half a century, should remain undeveloped, i.e., unbuilt. There is strong resistance in the neighborhood against having this space taken away from us after so long. It belongs to the ambience of Manville Heights. There are severe concerns regarding even more aggressive traffic, pollution, sealing the ground with yet more cement and concrete, and increased noise.

This field is used every day by children playing all sorts of games that need space: kite-flying, frisbee, soccer, touch football, jogging, and dog walking. The students from the fraternities use it as well, and many of those in the neighborhood who spend their days at the UI Hospitals confronted with suffering and death walk there in the evening to find solace and to decompress. It is part of our quality of life here in Manville Heights. To stamp out rows of houses on these parklike acres against the will of the adjacent population would be in my opinion a grievous disservice to our neighborhood.

Many of us could imagine the university selling the land to Iowa City, with the Parks and Recreation Department being responsible for the maintenance. There is also possible momentum for land purchase by members of the neighborhood, funneled through the financially careful and ecologically sound guidance of the Bur Oak Land Trust. Besides the magnificent mature trees that already exist there, more could be planted around the periphery of the property.  It has been suggested by many in the neighborhood to erect a marker to honor our health care heroes there as well.

I sincerely urge the university to consider a constructive compromise regarding the future of the band field. The use of City Park for all our various activities is not a viable option given traffic issues. Park Road has an already increasing amount of speedy vehicle traffic due to expansive construction in North Liberty and distance factors as well. it is not simply just a quick walk down to lower City Park, especially not for children.

The proposal of opening the field up to “redevelopment” has already been felt by many as a threat to property values as well as to the neighborhood quality of life itself. It has seriously stirred up feelings of resentment. Those of us who played as children on “Boots Lot”, as well as those of us who are simply drawn to this idyllic open space, find a peace there that should not be destroyed.  Losing those park-like acres to real estate development would also inevitably teach our children that their playing field is not on the same level of value as someone making money off the land.

Many of us feel a need for absolute straightforward conversation regarding the future of these west five acres of the field.  We expect strong, serious consideration for the needs of our neighborhood as they have developed over the last 50 years. To many of us, straightforward conversation means much more than merely our perfunctory nod to any plans to build on this cherished property.

—Rabbi Rebecca Kushner, Iowa City Resident

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