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Arena moving forward.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Any good college basketball coach knows that a winning game plan must be flexible. The same pragmatism has proven essential to keeping alive the University of Oregon's hopes for a new basketball arena.

Reporter Greg Bolt's story in Friday's Register-Guard indicates that construction of a new UO arena is moving closer to reality, as university officials and Williams Bakery negotiate a deal for the bakery site just east of the university on East 13th Avenue near Franklin Boulevard.

All parties are appropriately cautious, hedging their comments with talk of a "complicated process" and the possibility of "something catastrophic" happening before the final buzzer. But it's beginning to look like a deal is in the works that will - OK, may - put a gleaming new pavilion on what early in last year's siting process was the school's preferred location.

That's heartening news. After UO President Dave Frohnmayer decided last February to put an indefinite hold on the project because of skyrocketing costs, many feared the project was history, along with the $130 million in private donations.

To their credit, UO officials quietly went to work revising their game plan. They also did the critical diplomatic work necessary to keeping mega-donor Phil Knight and others on board, and crafted a new financing strategy in which the arena would be built, owned and managed by a private, nonprofit company created by the UO Foundation. Such an approach could eliminate the need for borrowing by the university, a key factor in Frohnmayer's decision to table the project.

Meanwhile, Williams Bakery officials had a change of heart and told the UO they were willing to consider moving if a deal could be reached that enabled them to relocate.

Nothing's been finalized, and many obstacles must still be overcome. A quick glance at some of them helps explain why the university initially decided instead to build the new arena on the site of Howe Field next to McArthur Court.

Before an arena can be built on the bakery site, the UO will have to acquire several other nearby properties, a potentially costly and time-consuming process. Then there are impacts on the nearby Fairmont neighborhood - impacts similar to those that prompted fierce opposition by some who lived near the Howe Field site. The siting - and financing - of parking structures also must be resolved.

While there aren't enough details yet to make a final judgment, the Williams site appears to be a viable alternative to the Howe Field location, which would have required the costly relocation of several university facilities, including a recently built tennis complex.

Located on well-traveled Franklin Boulevard and on the soon-to-be-built Bus Rapid Transit line, the bakery site has some big-time pluses. It's within easy walking distance for UO students, and is near restaurants and motels. Not far away is downtown Eugene and the new federal courthouse district. A well-designed arena would also give the UO an impressive presence that it now lacks along Franklin.

Now, if the architects can figure out a way to make a basketball arena smell like freshly baked bread ...
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Title Annotation:Editorials; UO officials focus on Williams Bakery site
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 26, 2004
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