Lane County staff report that they have yet to make any major decisions on the feasibility of building a multi-purpose facility and new home for the Eugene Emeralds at the Lane Events Center.
As county officials continue to review the proposal, the next two to three months will be critical in deciding whether the facility will become a reality, County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky said at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners late may.
Officials took a small step forward at this meeting by approving contract changes that allow the effort to continue, for the time being, and emphasized that this is a gradual move.
“It’s not done yet,” Commissioner Jay Bozievich said. “We have many more decision points that were outlined in the presentation before we get to where we’re moving forward.”
And while there are still a lot of steps to go, the county is pressed for time, a consultant said.
“We believe it is still very possible to build and open the ballpark by the spring of 2024,” said Chicago-based International Facilities Group partner Mark Appell. “But there is no time to waste.”
The Ems are in the process of finding a new stadium as new MLB facility standards and a longer season mean the team, which has called Eugene home for decades, can no longer play at the city’s PK Park. ‘University of Oregon.
MLB is asking Ems to find a new home by 2025, but the university would prefer the team to work things out by 2024, general manager Allan Benavides said.
Lane County staff and consultants worked with the team to determine if a “new civic stadium” is feasible for the Lane Events Center.
In addition to serving as the new home for the Ems, the facility would host community events, serve as an outdoor concert venue, and host multi-level baseball tournaments.
Commissioners said they view the multi-purpose facility as an opportunity to provide the spark needed to keep the Lane Events Center running for years to come.
“Without a catalyst like this, I fear over time the buildings may not have an opportunity or we may not be able to find other funding opportunities to make them work,” the commissioner said. Heather Buch.
The Emeralds are excited about the opportunity to be the anchor tenant of a multi-purpose community facility at the county-owned event center, said Gant Elmore of Elmore Sports Group, owner of the team.
“It would keep professional baseball in Eugene and Lane County for decades to come,” Elmore said. “It’s been around for a long time, we’ve been a part of it for a long time and we’re excited to continue to be a part of it in the future.”
Part of the proposal evaluation effort is to identify sources of funding for the facility. Initial estimates pegged the facility at $45 million, though a consultant recently said $54 million to $60 million might be a more reasonable range, acting chief operating officer Lorren Blythe told officials.
The county is moving away from identifying costs and instead focusing on budgeting that respects disposable income, county spokeswoman Devon Ashbridge said.
“There are so many variables in a project of this nature, and it’s important that we focus on what is reasonable and achievable,” Ashbridge wrote in an email.
The Oregon Legislature approved $7.5 million for the proposed facility, which would be publicly owned.
The Ems have always committed to contributing $10 million, Elmore said, and are working to secure $1.5 million in federal funds.
All of those amounts are “pieces of the puzzle,” said Christine Moody, the county’s chief financial officer.
Staff expect the county to take a bond to pay for the installation and use those sources of funding and various other pots of money to repay the amount over time, Moody added.
There’s still a lot of work to do moving forward, and staff plan to come back frequently with small, digestible updates from the board, Blythe said.
Commissioners will discuss what Blythe described as an early design stage on Wednesday when they consider whether to allow a design-build method to be used for the proposed facility. If the council grants approval, the county will issue a request for quotes from qualified vendors, Ashbridge said.
Later this summer, staff will report additional information on funding options and community feedback, Blythe said, and the county plans to conduct a traffic study.
Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @MeganBanta_1.