UO may forcibly move cell phone tower located next to Hayward Field

As the University of Oregon gears up for the 2021 World Track and Field Championships, the UO Board of Trustees thinks the cell phone tower at Hayward Field has got to go.

The Board of Trustees met over conference call for an emergency session on Feb. 18 to decide the fate of the tower. Despite two members being absent, the 15-person board unanimously decided that the UO should use eminent domain to move the SBA Communications cell phone tower if negotiations cannot be made. The power of eminent domain would grant UO the right to condemn private property because it would benefit the public interest.

“This is necessary for the public interest,” UO General Counsel Kevin Reed told the board. “This resolution has been planned, designed and located in a manner that is designed to be the most compatible with the greatest public good and the least injuring of private parties.”

The UO Foundation will cover the cost it takes to demolish the current 120-foot tower and build a new one just outside Hayward Field. Its budget allows for up to $1 million toward the project.

“We are doing our best to make [SBA Communications] believe it’s a good deal for them,” Reed said.

The board set up the emergency meeting due to an approaching deadline. The cell phone tower is scheduled to be demolished on Aug. 1, 2016.

Reed felt that forcing SBA out may not be necessary if the two parties can reach a mutual agreement. Negotiations have been ongoing since August 2015.

“We have not been able to finalize those negotiations – although we are very close,” Reed said. “However, we have been very close to a deal several times only to have everything fall apart.”

Although Reed remained confident that an agreement can be made, he still found the decision to use eminent domain necessary. He declined to comment on what has stalled negotiations in the past because those details are “sensitive to describe in a public meeting.”

UO President Michael Schill attended the meeting and noted that he had received no public backlash from the proposal. He referenced a Register-Guard article that drew little complaints.

Notices have been sent out to the surrounding neighborhoods where the new tower would be, said Matt Roberts, UO’s senior director of community relations.

“We haven’t had any negative feedback from them,” Roberts said.

Coming to a mutual agreement or using condemnation power, either way, marks the next step in Hayward Field’s renovation. The current plan is to upgrade seating to support up to 30,000 more attendees prior to the IAAF World Championships in 2021. That upgrade would be stalled if the tower stayed at its current location adjacent to the west grandstands.

Sprint Communications initially leased the space in December 2004. It was sold to SBA Communications in 2008. If the lease stands, SBA would own the tower through 2029.

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