CityNews

Renovation vision remains unaltered in aftermath of Civic Stadium fire



More than a week after South Eugene’s Civic Stadium burned to the ground on June 29, Eugene Civic Alliance has regrouped to discuss a course of action moving forward.

The nonprofit ownership group acquired the property only two months ago, and tentative plans to build a new soccer stadium and multi-use sports complex for kids were within reach. The fire that destroyed the grandstand has complicated those plans, but it hasn’t stopped Eugene Civic Alliance from continuing its efforts to build on the 10-acre property.

“The vision of what was the final plan changed, obviously,” said Allan Benavides, Eugene Emeralds general manager and Eugene Civic Alliance member. “But have we abandoned that dream? No. If anything, there’s probably a lot more energy around it.”

Jenny Ulum, member of and the main spokesperson for Eugene Civic Alliance, said the board of directors has met twice since the fire, including a brief session on Wednesday. But many members of the alliance are working daily on this project, she said.

Before board members decide on how they want to renovate the property, Eugene Civic Alliance is tasked with cleaning up the charred remains of Civic Stadium.

Although Eugene Fire Chief Randall Groves declared most of the grandstand a total loss, various hardware — including turnstiles and joist brackets — could be salvaged as part of the new structure, according to Ulum. Even some of the wood could be salvageable, she said.

“We’re identifying those experts and resources now to see what we can do,” Ulum said. “Frankly, it’s more expensive to try to salvage than to just have it go to a landfill, but we’ll see what we can save.”

Once the property is free of debris, Eugene Civic Alliance can begin to decide what the property will look like once rebuilt.

According to the alliance’s website, the original design included a field house with nine volleyball courts and four basketball courts, as well as a turf field and a stadium of at least 5,000 seats to host a professional soccer team. Lane United FC, a semi-professional soccer team currently playing at the Willamalane Center in Springfield, will also be tenants.

“With the grandstand gone, it opens up possibilities for reconfiguring the design,” Ulum said. “That work has been ongoing with our architects and what they’re finding is, the design isn’t going to be vastly different than what it was.”

Throughout these decisions, Eugene Civic Alliance wants to engage with the public to ensure they know what’s going on, Ulum said. The fire has caught the attention of many once connected to the stadium, and countless people have reached out to board members.

“What’s crazy is how many people are coming out of the woodwork saying they want to help,” Benavides said.

Mike Sweeney, a five-time MLB all-star and former Eugene Emerald, contacted Benavides and the Emeralds. So did hall-of-famer Mike Schmidt, who played for the Emeralds during the 1972 season. Even the Emeralds’ equipment manager at Wilson offered to make a special edition uniform for the team to wear and later auction off to raise money for rebuilding efforts.

“They’re doing that for free,” Benavides said. “And that’s stuff we didn’t ask for.”

The grandstand is gone, and the ramshackle property will require plenty of work to rebuild. But Eugene Civic Alliance bought the property intending to build a brand new sports facility.

The fire hasn’t changed their intentions.

“We had some great momentum going into the purchase of this property,” Ulum said. “This fire has obviously drawn attention to the property, so we need to let people know that the dream didn’t die when the stadium went up in smoke. The vision is still intact.”

Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner


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Will Denner

Will Denner

Will Denner is a senior journalism major at the University of Oregon. He covers football and men's golf for the Emerald. Email Will at [email protected] with tips, questions and comments.