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Civic fundraiser would support a practical idea.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By George Brown

By Wednesday, the Eugene City Council will have further discussed and acted on a motion directing the city manager to submit to the Eugene School Board an offer to purchase the Civic Stadium property using park bond funds. I'd like to share some thoughts before this work session.

We have all read and heard many eloquent and well- reasoned appeals for preserving this important historic public resource as a vital center of community activity, so I will not repeat them. I'd like to point out, though, that these appeals have little to do with misty-eyed nostalgia, but have everything to do with practical, realistic suggestions for repurposing this space for affordable, family-friendly use.

It's difficult to overemphasize the enormous and growing popularity of soccer in the Eugene area in particular, and in the Northwest in general. It's not a temporary fad and it's not going away; we're merely catching up to the rest of the world. The recent formation of the Lane United Football Club and the connection of the EugeneMetro Football Club with the Portland Timbers Alliance will result in a need for more playing field space as well as a stadium to host tournaments.

To buy land and build a comparably sized facility anywhere else in the Eugene-Springfield area would cost many millions of dollars - far more than the purchase price from the school district and the relatively small remodeling cost needed to return Civic Stadium to active use.

To allow, by our inaction or indifference, this eminently repairable legacy to be demolished instead of being repurposed into an active revenue-generating facility would be extremely shortsighted.

Some councilors and residents have expressed a justifiable concern that Civic Stadium repairs and management would be a "money pit" that would drain dollars from an already overstressed general fund.

While it is true that some cities have made unwise investments in failed sports facilities, there are many more successful examples where cities made prudent initial investments (in our case, it would be from park bond land acquisition funds, which can be spent without compromising any city service levels) and then, through public- private partnerships, brought the projects to satisfactory, beneficial conclusions.

Close to home, the city of Portland's reinvestment in the repurposing of Jeld-Wen Field is directing a positive revenue stream to the city from the owners of the Portland Timbers soccer team, which is sharing in remodeling costs as well as paying a ground lease and a percentage of ticket sales to the city. Significantly, at no point in Portland's repurposing process were there any calls from business interests, residents, the development community or the Portland City Council to demolish the stadium and remove it from the public domain.

In our case, after purchase by the city, rehabilitation costs would be paid from the newly established Civic Stadium Rehabilitation Escrow Account at the Evergreen Land Title Co. after the city selected a general contractor through the bidding process. The city would choose a company through a like process to lease and manage the facility, similar to the arrangement with Cuthbert Amphitheater at Alton Baker Park.

The lease payments would go back into a parkland purchase fund, and when the value of the lease payments exceeded the city's purchase price, a positive revenue stream would be achieved.

Alternatively, lease payments, since they would not be park bond funds, could be used immediately to develop and maintain parklands the city already owns.

This arrangement would not preclude the Eugene Family YMCA or the Oregon Track Club from sharing the property with a rehabilitated Civic Stadium.

If, after the city's purchase of the property, the project could not move forward for whatever reason, the city would have the fail-safe option to resell the property for private development and return the proceeds to the park bond fund for purchase of parkland elsewhere. I believe this course exposes the city to minimal financial risk for a potentially great public benefit.

Friends of Civic Stadium, a 501.c.3 nonprofit organization and longtime advocacy group, is accepting tax-deductible donations for deposit into the escrow account.

Funds in this account can be disbursed only to pay actual construction costs and cannot be used for peripheral activities such as salaries, advertising or fundraising. If the City ultimately fails to gain control of the property and the stadium is demolished, contributors will receive a full refund of their donations.

I strongly urge Eugeneans to help with a contribution to preserve and restore this wonderful gift from our farsighted predecessors for enjoyable use by future generations.

George Brown, co-owner of The Kiva Grocery, represents Ward 1 on the Eugene City Council.
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Title Annotation:Guest Viewpoint
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 19, 2013
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