As Linda Wheatley stood on the edges of the Civic Stadium site on June 29 and watched the structure become engulfed by flames, she felt sick. “It was as if something I owned myself were burning,” she says.
As a member of the Eugene Civic Alliance advisory board, Wheatley had worked hard to save the historic baseball stadium, and now, the old wooden beams were beyond repair. Despite her grief, she watched the fire and listened to those around her telling stories of wonderful times spent at Civic, and she says it became clear to her that “this was a powerful moment.”
Wheatley says she and others hope to recapture the storytelling spirit at the Civic Play On Community Day Oct. 4. Although the historic stadium is lost, the fire did not change Eugene Civic Alliance’s core mission: to create a community hub for all ages to enjoy.
Matthew Scheibe, a landscape architect working on the site, says while historic preservation is now out of the equation, the clean slate offers more flexibility in the alliance’s plan. It still makes sense to position the new stadium, Lane United soccer field and children’s fieldhouse in the same configuration, he says, but elements like accessibility and the positioning of the pocket park are now easier to align.
“It is a community events center that transcends sports — it’s a place for us to be together for the ambiance, to enjoy concessions or be in an outdoor environment,” Scheibe says. “And we’re hoping this event will give everyone a taste of that.”
Wheatley says Lane United Football Club and Eugene Timbers Football Club Azul will attend the event, as well as Healthy Moves, Kidsports and the Ems baseball team with its Sluggo mascot. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will provide art activities for kids, and the field will also host food carts and a beer garden.
To help capture stories, Wheatley says students from Pacific University will set up a story booth in the style of NPR’s StoryCorps, where community members can record memories of Civic.
It’s also a last chance to see the baseball diamond and dugouts before the field is razed in preparation for renovation. Wheatley says a group of artists, including Jud Turner, Betsy Wolfston and Tim Boyden, will make art from the piles of scrap metal, and the works will be auctioned off in the spring.
The alliance estimates it will need to raise $17 to $20 million to complete its vision.
Scheibe says that although the old stadium is lost, the site and community memories are still there. “We lost something big, but we still have a lot to be excited about,” he says.
Civic Play On Community Day is noon to 4 pm Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Civic Stadium site. Admission is free.