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HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP
There are new councilors and two brand new commissioners, and they need to hear from people like you. People often ask how they can help, and I tell them without a doubt that personal emails from citizens go a long way. We’ve been cognizant of not asking too much of you, but we really need you to write letters. I often hear folks say, “When are they gonna start building the new stadium?” Only to inform them that there has been no decision on moving forward. Let me be clear: nothing has been approved to move forward. The design team put together by Lane County has been working on getting a budget for the project and they are presenting this to commissioners this month. As they get ready to hear an important update, we need YOU to get loud.
If you are so inclined to help, please send a personal email to commissioners and city councilors to encourage them to help build this facility in partnership with the Emeralds. Please send emails to:
To Ems Fans
I’m Allan Benavides and I’m the General Manager of the Eugene Emeralds. During my tenure the past 14 years, this front office has been able to do some amazing things. Aside from winning 4 championships in the last 6 years, the real victories are the accomplishments we’ve been able to make in this community. From helping to keep the Boys and Girls Club open in 2011, working year-round with the Childrens Miracle Network, helping hundreds of residents during the horrific 2020 Holiday Farm Fire, hosting Relay for Life, reaching out to our LatinX friends with Monarcas Beisbol, hosting our annual Pride night, and hosting National Night Out with our local police – we’ve honored the notion that community driven initiatives drive our baseball club. Nonetheless, the hard and sad truth of the matter is that this nearly 70-year-old Eugene tradition of Emeralds baseball is on the precipice of losing this team forever.
As you may know, The Ems were elevated to High-A Baseball in 2020. Our season increased from a 76-game season to 132-game season. We now have 66 home games versus to 38 home games when we were a short-season club. Our season now starts in early April rather than mid-June. Up until 2020, PK Park worked fine hosting two home teams in the Ducks and the Ems. However due to strident new MLB facility guidelines, overlapping seasons with the Ducks, we must find a new facility to call home. Highlighting our stressful situation are the early weeks of June 2023. The recent success of the Ducks Baseball program hosting Super Regionals and moving our home series to Washington last minute just emphasizes the severe need for the Emeralds to find a new home.
On behalf of the Eugene Emeralds, I am personally reaching out to YOU and asking for your help. For the last 2+ years, I have been diligently working hard to get a new facility for the team and we’ve made some good progress at the Lane County Fairgrounds. We know there are issues with this site and some neighbors are very concerned. We will work hard and communicate heavily with the neighborhood to be a good community advocates for Jefferson Westside and the community at-large. For over 40 years, the Emeralds played in beloved Civic Stadium which was right in the middle in a neighborhood in South Eugene. This opportunity brings the team back into the community and bring a new venue for many communal uses.
This new facility will help modernize our aging fairgrounds. The project has several locker rooms to host multiple teams for tournaments. These facilities will also be vitally important if we ever have a disaster in our community. Our hope is that this new facility will not only host the Emeralds but a slew of other events: High School and adult baseball and softball, holiday events, non-profit events, graduations and many more community driven uses. However, at this point, the chances of a new facility being built are 50/50 at best.
Building a multi-use facility at the fairgrounds would not only secure the future of Minor League Baseball in Eugene. A new stadium near downtown Eugene would revitalize the Fairgrounds neighborhood and increase revenue for local businesses. As a multi-use facility, a ballpark at the fairgrounds would provide residents with a state-of-the-art recreational space. It would also provide Lane County with an outdoor destination for events and concerts the county does not currently have. We have heard and understand concerns associated with noise and light pollution; however The Emeralds are committed to working with neighborhood residents to make this transition simple.
On behalf of the Emeralds, thank you for reading and helping keep the team here in the Emerald Valley!
All the best and Go Ems!
General Manager for YOUR Eugene Emeralds
Frequently Asked Questions
There are both scheduling and facilities issues that make sharing PK Park no longer possible. The new full-season schedule format means that both teams need the stadium at the same time. The Ducks use the PK locker room and facilities until they finish their season, which results in the Emeralds without access to the home facilities until well into their season.
Even more importantly, PK Park does not provide a visiting locker room, or other facilities to meet the MLB minimum requirements for High A Teams. Currently the Ems rent construction trailers to house players, trainers, coaches and female staff. The Ems did approach the UO about expansion potential, but without an additional practice field and facilities, it’s not possible to share PK Park.
The relationship between Major League Baseball and a team’s community is a partnership. The league pays for the talent on the field, signing the players, paying their salary and health insurance, housing, meals, and associated costs. The community is responsible for providing a suitable place for them to play.
The proposal for a new stadium in Eugene is a collaborative effort between the team and the community. The Ems will be sharing financially in the cost of construction and operation of the new multi-use stadium with the community (see below). The new building will be available year around for much more than baseball. In addition to the support of youth sporting and many charitable events, the new facility will be available as an arts and concert venue, as well as an emergency response site for disasters such as wildfires and other events requiring evacuation and temporary service delivery. The Ems have agreed to be the operator of the new stadium, which contributes significantly to pay ongoing costs.
The plan for financing the new stadium does not include any increase in local property taxes.
We have been working with Lane County for about two years to develop a funding plan and have made all of our information public in meetings with the Lane County Commissioners. The original cost was much lower but over the time of planning for the new stadium construction costs have increased significantly.
The current estimate is about $90M to build the new stadium/multi-use facility, and about $10M to replace the existing livestock barn which will be displaced with a new stadium.
To date, the confirmed funding plan totals $57.5M including:
- $35M in tourism taxes
- $13.5M direct payment from the Ems
- $7.5M allocation from the State of Oregon
- $1.5M allocation from the Federal government
We are working hard to secure a contribution from the City of Eugene, which will help close this gap. Additionally, the funding plan includes a request to the State or Oregon for an additional contribution, and a large private sponsorship as part of naming the stadium. Together, these contributions will close the gap.
We are working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen. But, if we do not get a new stadium the team will play here for the 2024 season, and maybe extend into the 2025 season. After that, the team will simply dissolve if there is no facility.
The initial planning included an assessment of dozens of possible sites ranging from Valley River Center to Glenwood and to LCC to Coburg. Important criteria included available land and infrastructure supports and ability to meet the timeline for construction. The Lane County Fairgrounds is the clear choice, presenting a great location with existing infrastructure, and an opportunity to spark needed revitalization of the whole Lane Events Center property.
This will not have a negative impact on the County Fair. In fact, this investment will spark a needed revitalization of the facilities at the Lane Events Center, providing improved facilities year round, including the new stadium as a concert venue. The Ems and MLB will plan to coordinate our game schedule to not overlap with the fair.
The return to the community falls into a number of categories. A multi-use sports and entertainment venue brings a high volume and consistent flow of people as well as valuable views and a sense of place. This helps attract development, which adds to the tax base. According to a study by ECONorthwest, the new stadium will generate significant economic benefits for Lane County. The construction of the stadium alone is expected to infuse $75.90 million in economic output and create over 500 full-year equivalent jobs. Once operational, the stadium will attract baseball fans and concertgoers revitalizing the Lane Events center and injecting an estimated $31.68 million in economic output and supporting nearly 300 full-year equivalent jobs annually.
Additionally, we’ve seen ballparks across the country get used for more than baseball. In the past decade, Fort Wayne, IN; Columbia, SC; Birmingham, AL; Durham, NC; Amarillo, TX; El Paso, TX and Kannapolis, NC have all demonstrated the strong community benefit of a new stadium. For our community, this also provides the opportunity for us to leverage significant state, federal, and private dollars to create a seismically sound facility to assist in emergency response, and to spark improvements in the Lane Events Center in the heart of Eugene.
This facility will allow for a wide range of programming, with the non-baseball event planning done in collaboration with the Lane Events Center. A comparable example is in Fort Wayne, Indiana that has a population of 265,974. Their Minor League team are the Fort Wayne Tincaps. Over the past decade, the Tincaps averaged 399,938 fans each season. Additionally, they averaged 126,291 additional fans to non-baseball events with an average of 612 events each year. The events range from concerts, organized runs, high school athletic programs such as soccer, football and baseball; holiday light shows and events, car shows, youth batting cage practice, Oktoberfest events, high school graduations, scout sleepovers, orchestra nights, yoga events on the field, and charitable fundraisers. All of these events are planned for the new stadium.
With the addition of the new stadium, the Lane Events Center would be the largest outdoor entertainment venue on the I-5 corridor between Portland and Sacramento. This would fill the gap of hosting between 10,000 and 12,000 people. In Eugene, the Cuthbert has a maximum capacity of around 5,000, the indoor Hult Center holds about 3,700 and the indoor Matthew Knight Arena holds about 10,000 for concerts. There are several examples of concert opportunities that have been turned away because of the lack of larger outdoor venues.
The concept for operations is a collaborative one. The Ems would be an anchor tenant in the multi-use stadium and a catalyst for the larger campus. The vision is for year-around events to help keep that campus vibrant and to create an energy that invites more public and private investment in the campus. For the events that are beyond the baseball mission, the Ems would work closely with the staff at the Lane Events Center to leverage strengths and plan and book a broad range of events of interest to the community from concerts, to community gatherings, conventions, sports activities, fundraisers and more.
The Ems would operate the stadium for the term of the lease. Typically, leases work out to be about 30 years with additional options in 5 year increments. The Ems are offering to pay the lease up front to assist with construction. Leases generally stipulate a number of dates that the municipality can reserve to host their own events.
The ECONorthwest study identifies the anticipated economic impacts, including the spillover effects on the local lodging market. The new stadium’s ability to host a variety of events, including both Ems and non-Ems competitive baseball games and concerts, will draw visitors that translate to 20,771 more hotel room nights and more than $4.1 million in hotel revenues within our region.
We pride ourselves on being an affordable evening for families in Lane County. We provide a variety of options with special program vouchers, Thirsty Thursday and discounted theme nights throughout the season. The Emeralds rank as the 77th most expensive ticket in the nation out of 120 teams. In the A+ Category which total 30 teams, the Ems are the 21st most expensive ticket. Our average ticket for the season is $10.47. The most expensive is the Hillsboro Hops at $20.36. We expect our ticket pricing to go up slightly to average about $12 which would place us in the middle of the pack.
There are a total of 132 games: 66 home and 66 away, expecting an average of 4 rainouts a year. The season starts in Early April and ends in Mid-September.
The venue will enhance current shows, and we expect they will want to use this new facility. With access to a covered concourse, high definition sound and use of a giant video board the new stadium will be a popular new addition to the fairgrounds. And, based on experience in other communities we expect a variety of new and expanded events. One example is the programming at the new Kannapolis dog race shown here: https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/757606042
The team will schedule to be on the road for 2 weeks before the fair and 1 week after so that the fair can maximize their use of the Lane Events Center, hosting concerts inside the stadium and placing vendors along the concourse. We can easily accommodate the County Fair. Scheduling of other events will be done collaboratively based on the size and needs of other events and the home game schedule.
The County is currently exploring a variety of options for the livestock building and its relatively minimal usage throughout the year.
The Ems have been in Eugene for 70 years–we aren’t going anywhere. And, the contract with Lane County will include clear financial penalties that will kick-in if the team leaves or the league dissolves.
Almost every team in the country is affected by this change from MLB. Most teams are remodeling or expanding current facilities. A number of teams are negotiating new stadiums. Some examples on the west coast include Hillsboro, Everett, Eugene, Modesto and Visalia. Each community has some differences based on the regional economy, community size, and funding mix (for instance, we do not have a sales tax available to us).
Below are some examples of other communities that have recently gone through a similar process of building a new stadium. While each community is different, the similarities include questions about costs and opportunities to leverage the investment into significant community and economic development.
- Kannapolis: https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nc/charlotte/sports/2020/02/05/kannapolis-cannon-ballers–atrium-health-reach-deal-on-new-stadium-naming-rights
- Kannapolis: https://www.wbtv.com/2022/12/12/south-main-street-kannapolis-scene-latest-economic-growth-spurt/
- Fort Wayne: https://www.inputfortwayne.com/features/Downtown-ParkviewField.aspx
We are encouraged that construction costs are stabilizing, and believe the design work to date has appropriately estimated costs for building the new facility. The team is using a Design Build Process which provides a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP), alleviating any concerns.
In terms of sponsorship funds, we have met with several potential sponsors who are interested and waiting for the final County decision to move forward before moving forward with contracting. The largest outstanding funding question is support from the City of Eugene.
We are hoping to have 80% of the $90.4M cost confirmed by September 2023.
Our budget calls for $10M to $15M from these investments. We currently have 4 large businesses with strong interest in securing naming rights to the facility, others for the field and concourse. These potential sponsors will remain anonymous until the final decision to proceed is made by Lane County and sponsorship contracts are finalized.
The facility will be a County asset, with the Ems contributing about $13.5M up front, in addition to leveraging the contracts for sponsors and naming rights. The Ems contribution includes $10M up front for a long-term lease, and about $3.5 up front in FF&E for the facilities expenses.
Our baseball business relies on three key anchors for income: tickets, sponsorships, and concessions. The balance of the business is centered in community-minded gatherings and sponsored fundraising for charity.
Yes. Once built, the facility becomes available year-round for a variety of events, including both public and private. The revitalization of the Lane Events Center and surrounding community will also generate additional revenue growth with expanded restaurant, hotel, and other business activity in the area.
The new stadium is a great opportunity for our whole community, sparking much needed economic revitalization of the Lane Events Center and the surrounding area of Eugene. The impacts go well beyond baseball, and our hope is that the business community will partner with us in advocating for the new facility at the Lane Events Center. The business community is uniquely positioned to describe the importance of investing in economic development that will be a people-generator into downtown and the corridor west to the University. Communicating the value of this investment and the positive community impact of this economic opportunity will be critical in helping policy makers in Eugene and Lane County feel confident in continuing to support this effort. The whole community will benefit from this facility and related development, and we look forward to working collectively with our business community.
Latest News for Save OUR Ems:
- SF Giants affiliate calls for fan support amidst stadium uncertainty
- ‘There’s no time to waste.’ Coming months ‘critical’ for Emeralds’ proposal at Lane Events Center
- Officials approve condensed contracting process for Emeralds’ proposal at Lane Events Center
- As Emeralds, Lane County consider new stadium, Oregon approves $7.5 million in funding
- The Register-Guard – 3/7/22 | Letter to the Editor: Play ball
- ‘We’re going to build this’: Eugene Emeralds GM says building new stadium by 2024 not impossible
- Emeralds ‘through the roof’ about about possible county partnership
- Register-Guard – Letters to the Editor: Inside the Park
- Ems eye Lane Events Center for ‘New Civic Stadium’
- Eugene Emeralds, Lane County move ahead with plans for Fairgrounds
- The Eugene Emeralds eye the Lane Events Center for a stadium