Eugene Civic Stadium supporters prove skeptics wrong, reach fundraising goal

Eugene, OR – Some people were skeptical that Civic Stadium supporters could raise more than $4 million to buy the closed historic stadium in south Eugene.

grand-stand-concept

The doubters on Friday were proven wrong.

More than 120 donors agreed to help the nonprofit Eugene Civic Alliance purchase the stadium site from the Eugene School District.

“That is a pretty remarkable achievement,” said Derek Johnson, an alliance founder. “You have to look at this community and say this community really stepped up.”

Some of the donors are well known in Eugene, including Johnson’s father, Art, an attorney; banker Dean Hansen; Jim and Ginevra Ralph of The Shedd Institute; and Market of Choice owner Rick Wright.

The alliance and the city of Eugene will collaborate on the purchase of the 10-acre property from the school district.

Under the deal, the alliance will pay $4.088 million toward the $4.5 million purchase price.

The city will contribute $412,000 for a half-acre of land that will be used for a city park and an easement for a bicycle and pedestrian path through the site.

With the alliance contributions in hand or arriving next month through the Oregon Community Foundation, City Manager Jon Ruiz on Friday informed school district Superintendent Sheldon Berman that the city hopes to close the deal by the end of March.

The 20 largest donors contributed an average of $189,000, said Nancy Webber, an alliance member.

The alliance also raised money for the purchase by agreeing to immediately sell a 0.69 acre parcel on the north end of the stadium property that it doesn’t need.

Besides Johnson, the alliance is made up of Kidsports Director Bev Smith, Lane United Football Club Managing Director Dave Galas, engineer Greg Ausland and landscape architect Matt Scheibe.

The group now needs to raise millions to renovate the historic wooden grandstand and install an artificial turf field for the Lane United Football club.

Galas, of Lane United, noted that the Eugene Emeralds played in Civic Stadium for 40 years. The minor league baseball team left Civic after the 2009 season to play in the University of Oregon’s PK Park.

The Elmore Sports Group, which owns the Eugene Emeralds, also owns a stake in Lane United Football Club.

Galas noted that the Emeralds made a contribution to the stadium’s purchase.

“Today, we were able to save a bit of their history, and this is a seminal moment in our history,” he said.

Kidsports hopes to use land east of the field to construct a 44,000-square-foot fieldhouse for basketball, volleyball and other indoor sports and activities.

Once the Civic property is acquired, Smith said Kidsports would apply for a grant to the Salem-based Community Sports Development Council to pay for a share of the building.

Kidsports teams will be able to play on the artificial turf field when it’s not being used by Lane United, she said.

“This is a vision for kids and a vision for a vibrant, community-accessible piece of property that our forefathers and foremothers envisioned many years ago,” Smith said.

The Eugene School Board a year ago agreed to sell the 77-year-old stadium and adjacent land to the city. But the City Council preferred to let residents lead the acquisition and stadium renovation effort.

Last week, the City Council directed Ruiz to enter into a purchase and sale agreement with the alliance that would allow the city to buy the stadium property and then immediately sell all but a half-acre of it to the nonprofit group.

Alliance members gathered in Harris Hall on Friday to announce that they had reached their fundraising goal and that the city would proceed with the purchase.

They were joined by Mayor Kitty Piercy and city councilors Alan Zelenka, George Brown and Betty Taylor.

In an interview, Piercy praised the alliance. “It’s amazing,” she said. “The people who worked on it, there was nothing in it for them. They did it simply because they thought it would be good for our families and our kids and our community. They wanted to keep that recreational facility available for everyone in Eugene.”

Zelenka said that the city facilitated the purchase with the school district and helped lower the purchase price for the alliance by $412,000. However, the city will have little to do with the property once it is sold to the alliance, he said.

The group will have to provide funding to develop and maintain both the park and bike path, Zelenka said.

“We created that space for them to pull off this minor miracle,” he said. “Other than owning the park land and the bike path easement, we are out of it. It’s pretty cool.”

Leo Rickard, a first-grader at the Village School, raised $84 for the purchase by asking friends and family to contribute rather than give him birthday presents.

He came to the press conference with his parents, Toby and Heather Rickard.

After Piercy invited him to speak, the 7-year-old told reporters that he contributed $9 of his own money to buy the stadium property.

“Why I did it. I wanted to see games there and have my birthday party there, maybe,” he said.

DONORS

Civic Stadium donors include:

Art Johnson

Derek Johnson and Lynette Williams

Market of Choice

Eugene Emeralds

Dean Hansen

Jon and Terri Anderson

Jim and Ginevra Ralph

Linda and Steve Wheatley

Bev Smith

Greg Ausland, Ausland Group

Nancy, Bill, Jake and Maya Webber

Jenny Ulum and Tim Gleason

Jim Watson

Friends of Civic Stadium

Contributions to be made through the Oregon Community Foundation include the Coughlin Family Fund and McKenzie Oaks Ranch Fund.

To contribute to the renovation of Civic Stadium: Contact Eugene Civic Alliance, P.O. Box 5338, Eugene, OR, 97405, call 541-525-6601 or go to www.eugenecivicalliance.org

Ausland Group offers complete capital improvement expertise in development consulting, engineering, and construction.   For more information, visit us at https://auslandgroup.com/

Ausland Group | March 20, 2015

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