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Civic Stadium property still seen as prize for YMCA.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Y leaders may be frustrated, but they aren't giving up on their goal of building a $15 million recreation center on the Civic Stadium property.

Their tenacity is understandable.

A new recreation center on the stadium site would allow the Y to remain close to its members, most of whom live within 2 miles of the present building on Patterson Street.

The stadium property also is appealing because of its ample size and close proximity to South Eugene High School and Roosevelt Middle School.

"That's been our board's number one priority, to maintain our relationship with schools," said Dave Perez, Y executive director.

After their plan to gain control of the property was rebuffed earlier this month, Y leaders now must see if they can join forces with Rick Wright, owner and chief executive of the Eugene-based Market of Choice grocery store chain. Wright wants to rent the stadium property from the owner, the Eugene School Board, for $250,000 a year.

Wright says he wants to see if he, the Y and Save Civic Stadium, the community group intent on preserving the Depression-era ballpark, can a develop a plan to share the 10.2-acre parcel.

Save Civic Stadium hopes to renovate the stadium, which sits on about half of the property, for soccer, other sports and events.

The Y would like to build a 60,000-square foot recreation center and 44,000-square foot tennis center on the other half of the property.

Wright's proposal puts the Y in a position that it once considered and rejected - to work with Save Civic Stadium on a joint redevelopment plan for the Civic Stadium land.

At this point, it's unclear if the three groups will reach agreement on using the ballpark and adjacent land, or even if the school board will consider Wright's offer.

The school board isn't expected to resume discussion on Civic Stadium until August.

By then, the school district also will have a new superintendent, Sheldon Berman, who will replace George Russell on July 1. Berman may present the board with new strategies for the property.

"There are a lot of unknowns at this point," said Ron Crasilneck, president of Save Civic Stadium.

In spite of the uncertainty, the Y board wants to decide as quickly as possible whether it will pursue building on the Civic site or its present Patterson Street property.

"Our goal is to have that decision nailed down by September," said Y Board President Steve Thoennes.

Wright said he hopes to present the school board with a plan by August or September showing how the two groups could use the site.

The plan can benefit the school district and the community, he said. "I have some ideas on design and how to structure the deal, but they haven't been presented to boards of either the YMCA or Save Civic. So for now, they are just my ideas."

Y leaders are eager to make a decision on where they would like to build so they can hire consultants who would assess whether a fundraising campaign could succeed.

The Y also wants to build a recreation center in west Eugene's Bethel Park. Together, the south and west Eugene recreation and community centers could cost $20 million.

Y leaders say they need to decide where they will build before they ask potential donors to contribute.

"To effectively go out and do that, we need to have something tangible about the vision for the new building and the site that we want to locate on," said Thoennes, the board president.

Perez, the Y's director, said if the Y built on half of the Civic site, it could construct a much larger facility than if it built on its present 2.4-acre parcel.

The Y's property is a relatively narrow parcel bordered by Patterson Street on the west and mostly rental houses on the east.

If it rebuilt on that site, the city's building code would require the Y to devote more land to parking, which would cut down on the size of the new building, perhaps even eliminate the Y's ability to have tennis courts, Thoennes said.

Perez said it would be easier to raise money for a new building at Civic than for a new facility on Patterson Street.

"There is a lot more excitement and a willingness to contribute if we are able to build a larger building at the Civic site," he said. "When we talk about rebuilding on this site, there is not as much excitement because of all the constraints."
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 26, 2011
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