Historic site wasting away…old Civic Stadium
Less than two years ago, Civic Stadium in Eugene was the place to be in the summer in the upper Willamette Valley – playing host to 38 Eugene Emeralds games, giving fans an opportunity to watch baseball in a venue that was steeped in tradition and the lore of yesteryear. However, when the owners of the Ems, the Northwest League, and the University of Oregon agreed to allow the Emeralds to move their operations to P.K. Park on the other side of the Willamette River, Civic Stadium was abandoned – literally.
I had the opportunity to see the old yard first hand, thanks to former Ems’ assistant general manager, Bryan Beban, who got me as close as I could to the facility – which is under a bevy of padlocks and chains.
To put it lightly, it looks as if nothing has been touched since that final game in September of 2009 – the outfield grass is shin-high, resembling more of a cow pasture than the green lawn that future major league players roamed. The infield surface isn’t a manicured clay-based track with the hand-painted chalk lines, it is strewn with a bevy of weeds – some of which are 3-4-or even five feet tall.
It looks as if there isn’t a pitchers mound, as weeds have taken refuge on the bump, while the old manual scoreboard looks bare without the large Emeralds “E” that used to grace it. The only leftover from yesteryear is a KUGN radio sign near the pressbox, which, according to Beban, dates back to the early 1990s. In front of the facility is a sign that says it all – “For Sale or Lease”.
It is a sad shame that the folks in Eugene have let the park go to waste – if is going to sit and rot, as it is, burn the facility and make it a civic event so the community can come out and have one last hurrah. Or restore the facility and take a page out of Birmingham, Ala., where the AA Birmingham Barons host the Rickwood Classic each summer at the oldest active ballpark in all of the minor leagues. The Ems would be guaranteed 6,800 fans for that game – something the glitz and glamour of PK Park can’t provide.
Speaking of PK Park – it is a great facility, but without a visiting clubhouse, it draws a bitter taste in the mouth’s of some NWL skippers. With teams having to make the 8-10 minute walk (one-way) to the Autzen Stadium visitors locker room, squads are unable to take a full infield-outfield, make the trek, have a pregame PB-and-J, dress, and make the 8-10 minute walk back to the field for gametime. In fact, the Hawks did not take infield in any of the five games during the series due to this fact. I was under the impression that the U of O was paid up-front to build the clubhouse (by the 2011 season), however, they instead have plans to build a new football-only office complex and a new soccer-lacrosse field near the stadium. (RIP to the old girl – with a picture of its glory from just a couple years back)