Oregon’s Civic Stadium: "We Don't Want to Hear Strike Three"

Posted on: August 8th, 2013 by Sarah Heffern 2 Comments

The last Eugene Emeralds opening day at Civic Stadium, in 2009. Photo courtesy Tom Clifton, Flickr.
The last Eugene Emeralds opening day at Civic Stadium in 2009.

It's one of only a dozen wooden ballparks still standing in the United States, and one of only five remaining built by the Works Progress Administration.

In its last season in use, it was the 9th oldest minor league ballpark in the country, and 3rd oldest west of the Rockies.

Eugene, Oregon's Civic Stadium has historic chops galore -- and yet, it sits unoccupied, slowly deteriorating. It is not, however, unloved or forgotten. The work of the Friends of Civic Stadium (FOCS) sees to that. The avid group of local preservationists have been working tirelessly to convince the stadium's owners, Eugene's School District 4J, to find a solution that will provide the historic stadium a new lease on life.

According to FOCS board member Jim Watson, the ballpark's future lies not with our national pastime, but with the beautiful game: "We see soccer as the major user of the stadium ... There are actually three Professional Development League teams currently in Eugene -- one women's team and two men's -- and all of them want to play at Civic Stadium."

In addition, Watson sees alternative uses, such as concerts, outdoor movies, festivals, and other "field sports" as parts of Civic Stadium's next phase.

A rendering of the rehabilitated Civic Stadium. Image courtesy of Cameron-McCarthy Landscape Architects, partially funded by a grant from the Historic Preservation League of Oregon.
A rendering of the rehabilitated Civic Stadium. Image courtesy of Cameron-McCarthy Landscape Architects, partially funded by a grant from the Historic Preservation League of Oregon.

Before that can happen, however, the stadium needs new ownership. Watson's ideal scenario involves a land swap between the city government and the school district, but the FOCS is working to raise funds with the expectation that the new owner -- whether it is the city or a private individual or group -- will take them up on their offer to assist in the stadium's rehabilitation. Watson estimates that updating the stadium will cost approximately $2 million, and a new field a bit less than $1 million.

In the meantime, members of the community are pitching in to keep the stadium in good shape and the decision makers on their toes. To date, more than 400 hours of volunteer labor has been dedicated to clean up efforts, and more than two dozen letters to the editor have been printed in the local paper.

Even the Eugene Emeralds, who left Civic Stadium for a new home at the University of Oregon, are getting into the act. According to Watson, their Civic Stadium Day on July 13, which featured "information tables, video screen tributes, prize drawings, etc." yielded about 50 new supporters and "made them visible to a whole new part of the community."

And last but certainly not least, there's Gary Marullo, whom Watson calls "a big supporter" of Civic Stadium. How big, you ask? So big that he wrote a song about it, and crafted a video.

Now that's creative preservation.

For more case studies and resources on saving historic stadiums, sports arenas, and ballparks, check out Preservation Leadership Forum's Iconic Urban Buildings slideshow.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

Local Preservationists, Sports

2 Responses

  1. Mark Metcalf

    August 8, 2013

    How do I get a story like that written on one of the most historic baseball stadiums in the country? The stadium in Independence Kansas is very old (1918), and is where the first night game in the history of Organized Baseball was played on April 28, 1930. Organized Baseball is Major League Baseball and the Minor League teams associated with them. Also, it was not a one game experiment. It was permanent lighting used for 55 games that first year alone. They started a new era for baseball, it was the birthplace for night baseball. Mickey Mantle also started his professional career there with the Independence Yankees, a farm team for the NY Yankees. There are currently two plans approved of by the city, both to destroy the grandstand .

  2. Anonymous

    August 15, 2013

    Mark Metcalf- You seem to have a lot of information and knowledge on that stadium. Why don’t you write the article and find a way to distribute it (online, flyers around town, etc.) You should do it.