By Allan Benavides
When it comes to community development, few endeavors possess the transformative power to invigorate local economies and create lasting memories for working families like a vibrant and successful minor league baseball team.
The Eugene Emeralds have a storied history in our community dating back to 1955. The Ems are woven into the cultural fabric of our city. It’s hard to imagine life in Eugene without the Ems, but unless the Lane County Commission and the city of Eugene support a new stadium, that is the future we face.
PK Park, our home since 2010, no longer works following Major League Baseball’s decision to upgrade the Emeralds from Short-Season to High-A Professional Baseball. This new and much more competitive level of baseball comes with an expanded playing season from 38 to 66 home games, creating a major scheduling conflict with the university. The Emeralds cannot be accommodated at PK Park.
Now the Ems face an existential crisis: Without a new facility, the Emeralds will no longer exist, leaving thousands of fans with nothing but fond memories and depriving Eugene’s future kids the chance to make their own.
Much has been made about the potential price tag of a new stadium, but losing the Emeralds comes with its own set of costs, from lost jobs to loss of the team’s significant charitable contributions. When assessing the worth of investing in a stadium, we also can’t ignore the return-on-investment taxpayers can expect to receive from their continued investment in the Emeralds.
ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm, conducted an in-depth study to evaluate the economic impact of the proposed new stadium, finding that a new stadium will generate significant economic benefits for Lane County. The construction of the facility alone is expected to infuse $75.9 million in economic output and create over 500 full-year equivalent jobs.
Once operational, the stadium will attract baseball fans and concertgoers, injecting an estimated $31.68 million in economic output and supporting nearly 300 full-year equivalent jobs, annually.
Moreover, the study predicts significant “spillover” benefits for local hotels and businesses. The new stadium’s ability to host a variety of events, including both Ems and non-Ems competitive baseball games and concerts, will draw visitors to our city. This influx of visitors translates to 20,771 more hotel room nights and more than $4.1 million in hotel room revenues within our region annually, contributing to the overall vibrancy of our local economy.
In the grand scheme of things, the stadium will be more than a mere sports facility. It’s a catalyst for economic growth, a generator of local jobs, a stimulus for community engagement and a critical community development asset. This stadium isn’t just about the Emeralds; it’s about our local community and what we want our city’s future to look like.
In his recent op-ed, Richard Boyles, a hotel owner and industry representative, shared his reservations about the proposed Ems Stadium, but if you read his words closely, you’ll find that he agrees with the value of having a stadium. He just prefers it be built for track and field. We mustn’t fall victim to the trap of believing we are only deserving of one great opportunity and ultimately fighting amongst ourselves with the end result being obtaining neither one.
If you agree that losing the Emeralds is bad for our community, make your voice heard. Contact your city councilor and your Lane County commissioner and tell them to Save Our Ems!