Give LCC a Ballpark
Civic Stadium can live on
by Lonnie McCulloch
Will baseball be played at Eugene’s historic Civic Stadium next year, or will the stadium sit silent and empty, like a great ship run aground on a bureaucratic sandbar? The local media continue to report that the destruction of Civic Stadium is all but inevitable. Don’t believe it.
Personally, I am looking forward to the 75th anniversary season of Eugene’s historic Civic Stadium in 2014. And I envision it including a double-header day with both a college and professional baseball game. It could host community outdoor theater in the summer, and a concert or two for good measure.
I believe that LCC should own Civic Stadium. It would provide the LCC Titans with an excellent field and a beautiful stadium for the fans. Current baseball facilities at LCC are minimal at best, with only a few bleachers behind the backstop. Most fans bring folding chairs, sit on the ground or in their vehicles in the overlooking parking lot.
This year’s Titans came within one win of post-season play. Head Coach Rob Strickland has said the return of baseball to the UO may help bring future talent to the Titans in the form of players hoping to make it as walk-ons with the Ducks. It appears that the Titans are likely to be fielding an exciting, competitive team in the future.
Most LCC players are from somewhere in Oregon or neighboring states but often not from the local area. Friends and family of the players on LCC’s teams would be more likely to visit from out of town if they could watch the games at a full-service facility. These visitors would likely stay in local motels and eat in local restaurants and at the game, providing an economic boost for the entire community.
LCC could draw sizeable crowds during their season. It’s also likely that, with only minor modifications, soccer and softball could be played there as well.
But what about a pro team for the summer? The independent Golden Baseball League with teams from California to Canada has expressed an interest in fielding a team at Civic. So, a pro-am double-header is a possibility. And I would think the LCC Theatre Department would love the opportunity to present outdoor theater to the community.
The problem, of course, is how to pay for all this. The Eugene School Board has taken the position that they are more interested in the monetary value of the land under the stadium than the stadium itself. They believe they can get $4 million to $5 million (or more) for the property.
In 1938, at the depth of the Great Depression, the voters of Eugene agreed to tax themselves at the rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value to raise the $6,000 in back taxes on the property that is the current site of Civic Stadium. The property was then sold to District 4J for $1, with the stipulation that it was “to be used as a recreational area for the School District and the municipality.” But the lawyers of 1938 forgot to say “in perpetuity,” so the lawyers of now have decided they can sell it for a profit, without carrying that deed restriction.
So how much would the same rate raise now? If applied to the LCC tax base, it would raise approximately $10 million, according to Lane County Assessor Annette Spickard.
I believe the LCC Board should put to the voters a proposal to authorize $10 million for the purchase, renovation and operation of Civic Stadium. If a maximum purchase price is written into the ballot language, the 4J Board would be hard-pressed to turn down the deal. A price of perhaps $1 million is appropriate. Seeking full market price is, in my opinion, a violation of the deal made with the voters in 1938.
We are a creative community. I am confident there are lots more ideas out there. It is time to engage in a healthy, civic discussion on the future of Civic Stadium. The School Board needs to give us the time to have that discussion and not be in a hurry to sell Civic for a fast buck.
Despite the gloomy news about Civic Stadium recently, I remain optimistic that Civic will not only be saved but will thrive in the future.
Lonnie L. McCulloch grew up in Crow and attended both LCC and UO, earning a degree in the Planning, Public Policy and Management program. He is associated with the Save Civic Stadium organization but writes as an individual.