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Pro Soccer For A Public Civic Stadium?

Whither Civic Stadium? After a two-year moratorium, the site’s future is once more a live question, and Eugeneans might wonder what part the public can play in answering it — and whether they prefer a big box store or a soccer team.

According to Eugene 4J School Board Chairperson Mary Walston, the board is soliciting comments at its 7 pm Aug. 28 meeting at César E. Chávez Elementary School. The board welcomes both oral and written testimony, and the public comment period is early on the meeting’s agenda.

Although Civic Stadium’s future won’t be decided just yet, public participation in developing the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the historic wooden stadium is crucial. How the RFP gets framed affects what proposals the board will receive. The 4J board would especially “love to hear … what value we should place on community benefit, and what ‘community benefit’ is.” In a 5 pm work session preceding the Aug. 28 meeting, the board will discuss a draft RFP.

Walston said when this debate was last live most people in neighborhoods surrounding Civic Stadium strongly opposed selling the land for a Fred Meyer, but the board also “had many emails from people further away in Santa Clara, saying, ‘Just sell it to the highest bidder — get as much as you can for it.’”

The question is now whether the school district and community are better served by a short-term addition to the district’s coffers or a long-term investment in the community’s future. Unlike two years ago, however, the Eugene-Springfield area is now home to a professional soccer team, Lane United Football Club, which needs a stadium.

Lane United FC President Dave Galas says he really missed walking down to Civic Stadium to watch baseball, and he started the team in part to answer the question, “Who’s going to play there?” The Lane FC proposal would call for Civic to be purchased by the city and thus stay in public hands.

In the meantime, Galas says, “We’re getting a lot of interest from a lot of different fronts: hotels wanting to affiliate with the team … all the way to the city of Springfield asking us what it would take, what we can do, to locate a USL [United Soccer Leagues] team in Springfield.” Former Seattle Sounders player and member of the philanthropic Jaqua family Nate Jaqua is ambassador for the team.

Galas and Lane United FC hope to see Civic Stadium renewed but “are open to whatever comes our way.” The team plays its second game at 7 pm Friday, Aug. 23, at Sheldon High School. Tickets are $5 at the gate.