A Friend Of Civic
This article was originally posted on Lane Today in early 2014. It is Part 1 of a 3-Part Series on the sale of Civic Stadium in Eugene, OR.
It will never remember your birthday, walk you down the aisle at your wedding, or give you a hug when you’re feeling down but that doesn’t stop Dennis Hebert and the Friends of Civic Stadium from treating the deteriorating Civic Stadium as a member of the family.
“I lived about ten blocks from here and because of my travels when I first got here and got a job I was heading over 30th [Avenue] but when I’d get home I’d hear like a roar of a crowd and I’m going ‘Well what’s all that noise’ so I came down here and was like ‘Wow, baseball’…when I saw that I was basically hooked,” said Hebert as he reminisced about the first time he stepped foot into Civic Stadium back in 1987. “When I first came here, I’m a retired carpenter, I saw the wood structure and the wood structure just grabbed me and went ‘Wow, look at that!’ To think of it being built in ’38 with old hand saws and bracing bits and who knows how they went about putting it all together when it was first built so to me that’s just a marvel in itself.”
Born out of the hope to preserve and renovate a staple of the South Eugene community and landscape, Friends of Civic Stadium was founded in 2007 after the Eugene School District 4J had put Civic on their surplus property list. With the Eugene Emeralds still as tenants, Hebert and some of his friends went around the community and gathered signatures preemptively to show the Eugene Emeralds and 4J that Civic Stadium was a cornerstone of the local community. However, as Herbert put it, “the monkey wrench came in” and the Emeralds ended up leaving for greener pastures in 2010 when the University of Oregon announced they were establishing a baseball team and with that constructing a new ballpark called PK Park.
Now, five years into the present, Civic Stadium has a bright future. After going through a lengthy bidding process, Civic Stadium has been bought by the City of Eugene and sold to Eugene Civic Alliance who will turn what was once a ballpark into a soccer stadium with the addition of an athletics field house.
After attempting to find a new baseball club to call Civic Stadium home in the aftermath of the Emerald’s departure, Hebert is proud Civic’s sense of place will remain intact. “Over the course of the years of coming to the games here…I could sit in my favorite spot over there and turn around and I’d pretty much knew fifty to a hundred people sitting around me.”
It is this sense of community and gathering place for South Eugene Hebert and Friends of Civic Stadium hoped would remain. “You’d sit here for a game and all the other cares in the world would go away. I guess you could say this was almost like a place you could come and it was like a meditative spot. You could come here and you were in the now and you were in the present.”
Over the years, along with gathering signatures and building grassroots support for the stadium’s preservation, the Friends of Civic Stadium have come out to Civic and help clean it up so it doesn’t fall into utter disrepair. Fresh paint has been put up to cover vandalism and graffiti marks inside the stadium. The grounds are kept intact with the help of security cameras focused on trouble spots and a twice-daily patrol of the stadium by members of Friends of Civic Stadium to record any potential trespassing incidents.
Since the acquisition of Civic Stadium by the Eugene Civic Alliance, Friends of Civic Stadium has been in close contact regarding the development of the site into a soccer stadium. It was Friends of Civic Stadium who originally came up with the idea of converting Civic into a stadium for soccer and other similar field sports such as lacrosse, rugby, and ultimate Frisbee. Friends of Civic Stadium commissioned two reports for the site, one from a nationally recognized stadium consultant, Vox PRPA out of Portland, and one more locally based and both concluded in their findings Civic would be great for soccer. Citing the growing support for soccer in the United States, along with sports like lacrosse and rugby, as well as the actual costs of converting and renovating Civic Stadium to work for soccer, it was determined this was a feasible future for Civic Stadium if the funds for renovation were acquired.
The Eugene Civic Alliance purchased Civic Stadium for more than four million dollars from the City of Eugene last Friday. The City of Eugene will pay Eugene School District 4J roughly four and a half million dollars this March. The City of Eugene will maintain ownership of a piece of land west of Civic Stadium that borders Willamette Street and turn it into a park. The City of Eugene will also build a bike path on the north side of the stadium site that connects Amazon Parkway and Willamette Street.