The fate of Civic Stadium is unlikely to be decided in 2014. Yes, the members of the 4J School Board are committed to “disposing” of the structure as soon as they possibly can — they consider it a distraction from their mission. But, whether they choose to accept the offer of Kroger (Fred Meyer), the Y or the city of Eugene, it will almost certainly be a year or more before we know how the site will be used. The reasons differ for each of the bidders.
Kroger — It’s hard to imagine why the 4J Board would even consider the Fred Meyer offer. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that 4J will continue to own the stadium for years while developer Peter Powell tries to wear down city planners to change zoning and get permits approved. Certainly the board cannot consider accepting what Kroger considers a “plan.” Ask, for example, what will be on the site with the big box and Powell just says they are listening to the community — a dubious assertion given the overwhelming percentage of the community that says, “No Fred Meyer!”
Powell’s strategy on other projects has been to wait out opposition. But he proved how he underestimates Eugene’s opposition to demolishing the stadium for a Fred Meyer when he recently told The Register-Guard “We are not expecting appeals” from project opponents. He ought to be aware that the opposition will be intense and the appeals many, leaving the Eugene School District with ownership of the structure for all the years Powell is prepared to wait. Does 4J really want to continue being blamed for letting Civic Stadium deteriorate and eventually succumb to “demolition by 4J’s neglect”?
The Y — While the YMCA does an excellent job of teaching us how to swim and stay in shape, I wouldn’t want to count on it to teach us logic. The Y uses two premises that we can all agree on to reach a head-scratching conclusion:
A) The Y is a valuable community asset and B) the Y needs a new building, therefore Civic Stadium must be demolished.
Huh? Not only are there multiple locations for a new Y, there is even room for it on the site with a renovated stadium. The Y’s excuse for resisting co-location — parking — is a problem with solutions, not an end-of-story roadblock. It is, in fact, a problem it will face anyway with the “dance partner” of the moment, yet another housing development. The Y’s plan for “honoring” the history of Civic Stadium is, frankly, insulting, and, with a shaky financing plan dependent on housing, the site would, again, likely remain the responsibility of 4J well into the future.
The city — If Eugene’s bid is accepted, 4J will get its revenue right away and no longer have the burden of caring for Civic. What happens to the historic structure then will be up to the city and any partners it brings on board. These partners could include Friends of Civic Stadium (FoCS) and other supporters of refurbishing and repurposing Civic for soccer, other field sports and events. Ultimately Civic must become a self-sustaining operation, spruced up, back in use and treasured by the community. We are confident that will happen if Civic is given the chance. It is a low-risk, high-reward proposition. This is a one-of-a-kind building that once gone is gone forever.
There is nothing easy about getting the city’s bid considered since the Eugene City Council has only given supporters 60 days to raise a $5.5 million maintenance and rehabilitation guarantee. It is a heavy lift that will require the generosity and community spirit of some deep-pocketed individuals, but we are hopeful. And, if it takes longer than 60 days, we think the council will see the promise of Civic to the community and be flexible in the timeline, and include in the definition of “guarantee” long-term commitments and offers of in-kind materials and labor.
I recently saw a documentary about how Seattle benefited from the business leaders who made the vision of the 1962 World’s Fair a reality. Three points in the film are worth considering: 1) “Public money made it possible; private money made it spectacular,” 2) lasting positive effects of the fair resulted when Seattle “consciously and intentionally created a space for all people; a place that creates community,” and 3) “Seattle rose above petty parochial concerns to create a lasting legacy.”
Civic supporters are eager to accept the challenge of helping the city prove that the stadium will be the kind of legacy the 1962 fair gave Seattle and to make Civic even more of a community asset than it used to be: an affordable, family-friendly, diverse gathering place open to all. We ask 4J and the city: Do we really want to throw away such an opportunity? Giving Civic Stadium a chance is the right — and smart — thing to do. — Jim Watson