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Easy answer hard to find for ballpark.

Byline: Ron Bellamy The Register-Guard

The University of Oregon's new baseball program has received its first Pac-10 schedule, and it shows the Ducks playing their first league game since 1981 on March 27, 2009.

The opponent: Oregon State. The place: In Eugene. Somewhere.

Where the Ducks will play, and whether they'll share a facility with the Eugene Emeralds, and whether that facility can be Civic Stadium, was the fundamental topic of a closed meeting Monday at the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce. The meeting brought together representatives of the university, the Emeralds, the city of Eugene and the Eugene School District, which owns Civic.

"It was the first time we've all been in one place at one time," said chamber president Dave Hauser, adding, "The good news is that nobody is being dragged to the table in any way, shape or form."

Whether the parties can be dragged, even kicking and screaming, to a solution that makes everybody happy is uncertain, at best. Oregon wants to move fast, and this isn't a community in which things happen fast.

Key issues are whether Civic can be salvaged as a baseball facility, given that the school district has the right to sell the property and no mission to be in the baseball business, and then, just as important, whether that site makes sense for UO baseball, and what would happen if, or perhaps when, Civic is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"We're not in the business of baseball, but if we could figure out a way ... to have ownership shifted somewhere else and still do baseball, I think the board might be open to looking at that," Eugene schools Superintendent George Russell said. "The question would be how would that happen and what would it cost."

To keep baseball - the Ems - at Civic Stadium, Russell believes the school board would, in a sale to another public agency such as the university, be willing to accept less than top dollar. Russell said that at Monday's meeting he promised to get an assessment of what the Civic Stadium property would be worth if placed on the market.

Even if it accepted Civic as a site - a big "if" - Oregon would need to make major changes to Civic, and historic designation could be a complication. "The irony of that whole thing is that might be the deal-breaker," UO AD Pat Kilkenny said. "If it slows us down materially, that could be a significant problem."

Kilkenny said he expressed the university's hope for "an expedient solution and hopefully a strategic one. Not one with duct tape and bubble gum."

One option for Oregon is to build a stadium on property it already owns or controls - other than referring to the vicinity of Autzen Stadium, Kilkenny hasn't been more specific - with the field itself and some temporary amenities to be ready for the 2009 season.

"We want to be a very competitive baseball program really early on, and I think the only thing that's going to stand between us and competing in our conference will be facilities," Kilkenny said. "We have a sense of civic responsibility, too. We're a big part of this community. But ... our threshold for pain is probably a year longer than what we could do building on our own site. In other words, if there was a greater-good solution that everyone could make sense out of, and it slowed it down for one season, we would consider it."

But if Oregon is going to be part of a community solution - ensuring that the Ems have a place to play - then it will expect help.

"We believe everybody has to have financial skin in the game," Kilkenny said, referring to the other stakeholders. "We're not going to make a major capital investment and give them a long-term solution for a community issue without receiving some kind of in-kind investment from them."

Oregon wants to have made a decision on a site by the end of the year. There may yet be some kicking and screaming.
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Title Annotation:Sports Columnist
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 17, 2007
Words:674
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