A new dream, one made of steel, grandstands and an urban park, is rising from the proverbial ghost of Eugene’s Civic Stadium, now called Civic Park.
The $31-million community-funded sports facility is 10 months into construction and tentatively opens in spring 2020. Builders have already erected the massive frame for a four-court field house, which flanks Amazon Parkway. One wall of the Kidsports field house is up and a second wall will be up by the end of August.
The facility is primarily designed for Lane County youth, but community members and teams can pay fees to use the facility too.
Kidsports is a long-running nonprofit for youth sports in Lane County, and will be subsidizing many of the youth teams that use the new facility.
Eugene Civic Alliance is still raising the last $5 million it will take to finish phase one. A future round of fundraising will pay for a second phase of additions.
“You’ll walk in right there and this will be the gym,” ECA director Nancy Webber says as she walks under the expansive steel frame of the future field house during a recent tour with Eugene Weekly.
In addition to the foundation of the field house, construction crews have leveled the space where the new turf field — the size of a regular soccer field — will be built.
The three-acre campus will eventually include grandstands, a small urban park and a bike trail through the grounds.
The funds raised so far will help construct phase one of the project, which includes the field house, turf field, parking lot and park. A second, future phase of the project will then add on a grandstand with a press box, stands, restrooms and storage.
The much beloved Civic Stadium burned down in 2015. The fire occurred just two months after Eugene Civic Alliance purchased the lot for $4 million from the city of Eugene, with plans to restore the aging, wooden baseball stadium.
After the fire destroyed the stadium, ECA pivoted and went on to raise more than $25 million over the next three years to build a new sports facility on the land.
On Aug. 6, ECA and Kidsports announced a partnership with Sports Facilities Management as development and operational partner for the Civic Park project. SFM provides financial forecasts and funding strategies and solutions to youth and amateur sports and recreation complexes worldwide, according to the announcement.
Eight-year-old soccer player Gwynn Gordon observes the weekly evolving construction at Civic Park while riding in the car with her mom, Emily Steel, each day. Steel has been a soccer coach with Kidsports for the past three years. The family lives near Willamette and 29th, and Steel says Gordon is excited to play on the new field next spring.
“It’s really in our neighborhood, and the kids have watched it transform over the years. Right now, especially, it’s really visually obvious,” Steel says. “Gwynn loves to ride her bike, and from where we live, she will be able to go out our front door and go down a bike path and ride down there.”
Gordon plays on a soccer team of her peers from Charlemagne Elementary on Kincaid Street. Her team, Les Bandits de Chocolate, will go on to play other third grade soccer teams this coming year at Civic Park when it opens.
“A lot of the 8-year-old teams have really fabulous names. It’s really fun to cheer the teams at the end of the game. We play the Gumballs and the Pink Panthers,” Steel says.
Lane United FC, a local United Soccer League team, will also play at Civic.
Webber said the grandstands will be strategically built and positioned at a specific height for Eugene sports fans to catch the sunset on summer evening during games.
“They tell me their favorite part was to watch the sun, the alpenglow, if you will, on the south hills and the east hills, because the sun was setting behind them and it just glowed orange over here in the July sun,” Webber says of fans of the old park.
Details like the original 1950s turnstiles, the original Douglas-fir wood beams and the original metal from the old stadium are all nostalgic items ECA is trying to integrate into the new campus.
Webber lifted the tarp off an enormous pile of charred stadium wood beams, which workers salvaged from the ashes of the 2015 fire.
“This was cut in 1937 or 1938 and lived at Civic for 80 years. We thought we could use it for decorative effect in the buildings — countertops or just pieces here or there. And we may, but it’s got a lot of nails so it’s hard to remove it,” she says.
The four-foot-high stack of oversized burned beams has soaked up the day’s sunshine and is radiating heat back out. Webber explains the old wood is Douglas fir from area forests and they are still available to Eugene artists to resalvage and repurpose.
“We will do our best to bring those local memories back both in the construction and in things like we are creating a time capsule,” she says.
ECA officials are engineering a Civic Stadium time capsule and are calling on donations from citizens who might have vintage items from the stadium’s 80-year history.
Metal artist Matt Burney built a metal staircase for a family in south hills from some of the old beams of the original stadium.
“I specifically looked for pieces that had a corrosion, pitting, texture and bending. Things that are hard for me to duplicate it or make it look like metal that’s been in the ground for 80 years and then gone through a fire,” Burney says.
Also relative to Eugene history, builders unearthed an ancient layer of shale under the build site last month. This exposed hundreds of marine and plant fossils eight feet down.
The white fossils are embedded in the big stacks of shale, where they are piled at one end of the construction zone. White clam and white mussel shells can be made out. Civic officials asked the construction crews to save the sheets of shale in a pile, where Webber says children can come do fossil digs.
“This is shale from the bottom of the sea bed that once encompassed the bowl that Eugene sits in. It was much like San Francisco Bay,” Webber says. “We know that there were at least 20-some species in this particular area. We found a fossil of a pine tree, which is a rarity. There are lots of clams and mussels.”
The tentative opening of the new Civic Park is next spring. Phase two construction to build the new grandstands will continue after the facility opens.
Eugene Weekly co-owner Art Johnson is an emeritus member of the Civic Alliance board.