The new UO stadium plan stinks
BY ERIC JONES AND PAUL MARTONE
The new deal to build a baseball stadium for the UO and the Eugene Emeralds in the parking lot of Autzen Stadium undermines the appeal of minor league baseball and poisons the local fan’s love of the game. It eviscerates our connection to legends of the past and demolishes our shared history. To put it simply, the new deal stinks.
It stinks for a number of reasons. First, it’s a tragic, mind-boggling continuance of Eugene’s sad history of bulldozing old, historic buildings in the name of modernity or expediency. Cases in point: the historic courthouse, the armory, Mac Court. In place of the courthouse, we have an eyesore that contributes nothing historically, architecturally or aesthetically to downtown, and with Mac Court we lose not only a building, but also our vital connection to teams of the past, our communal moments of heartache and celebration. All of it, gone.
This latest deal also marks the demise of one of Eugene’s most unique landmarks. Built in 1938, Civic Stadium was a Works Progress Administration project and is one of the oldest stadiums in the country still hosting minor league baseball games. Enter the words “Civic Stadium” in Wikipedia’s search engine and discover the rich history of our beloved ball park, a national envy. It has been the Emeralds’ home since 1969 when the team moved to Civic Stadium from Bethel Park.
Prior to becoming the permanent home field of the Ems, Civic Stadium hosted the Eugene Caseys of the Cascade League in the 1940s and 1950s. Its construction is uniquely Eugene, with giant timbers felled from the local forests and an old fashioned scoreboard operated by local school kids.
The new deal, which promises to destroy Civic Stadium in two years, also lets the 4J School District completely off the hook for their quiet, avaricious campaign to sell off or profit from the prime piece of real estate that the stadium occupies. By seeking a court ruling that allows the district to sell the property, 4J forced the Ems to seek other opportunities to stay in Eugene. So the Ems struck a deal with the UO, which only wants a new baseball stadium to complement its new football and basketball facilities.
There appears to be a total and complete unwillingness on the part of 4J, the city and the UO to think creatively about ways to generate revenue from the site and preserve Civic Stadium. Couldn’t a portion of the land be converted to retail space? Won’t the city step up to fund some of the necessary renovations? Is the university so focused on building new sports facilities that it can’t see the potential for a truly unique stadium? With the recent boom in all things “throwback,” certainly Nike can understand the potential of Civic Stadium. After all, it isn’t simply the sport of baseball local fans cherish; it’s summer nights at the ball park, where people of all ages put aside their differences and come together to cheer on the team; it’s the camaraderie, the feeling of community, it’s the authenticity of place.
Ems fans, it’s time to take action. We vow to support our team for two more summers. For two more summers, we will “walk over the hill,” sit in the sun, eat ice cream out of a helmet, drink a microbrew and soak in the history of those giant timbers. For two more summers, we will watch kids change the runs, hits and errors in the scoreboard and wonder which of the current crop of Ems might make it to the Bigs; for two more summers, we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with family and friends and root, root, root for the Emeralds. For two more summers, we will say to ourselves, as we drive by Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, “Thank god we don’t have to watch baseball in a parking lot.”
Eric Jones works for the National Forest Foundation; Paul Martone is an instructor at LCC and a published writer of fiction.