EUGENE – The University of Oregon’s department of athletics is officially kicking off its fundraising campaign for its new baseball stadium, with its preferred location to be the northwest corner of the Autzen Stadium parking lot according to the Ducks’ Director of Athletics Pat Kilkenny.
"Take Me Back to the Ball Game" has been launched to provide money for a new facility as well as funds for the program’s operating budget, with a goal of raising approximately $20 million over the next seven years. The stadium promises to be among the finest collegiate baseball facilities in the country and will serve as the cornerstone for the reinstatement of a program that was discontinued following the 1981 season.
The preferred stadium site, which has met with the approval of University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer, will enable the construction of a stadium in the most cost-efficient manner since the university already owns the property for the site, and will allow for the completion of the project in a timely manner. The first phase of the stadium should be ready in time for the start of the 2009 spring college baseball season.
Oregon announced last July that it would resurrect its baseball program, with a resumption of competition to commence during the 2008-09 academic year. The hiring of two-time National Coach of the Year and 2004 College World Series manager George Horton provided immediate credibility and demonstrated the school’s aspirations to field a national-caliber program from the outset.
The Ducks are expected to open their home schedule in March of 2009, while they will open their Pacific-10 Conference schedule at home with a three-game weekend series against Oregon State March 27-29.
In addition, Kilkenny announced that the university had reached an agreement-in-principle with the Eugene Emeralds minor league baseball team to play in the new stadium as soon as the summer of 2010.
"Although Civic Stadium has been wonderful to us for a number of years, the possibilities for the future are exciting" admitted D.G. Elmore, chairman of the Elmore Sports Group. "We have to be realistic about what’s in our best interest. To find a long-term solution that provides us with an opportunity to move into a modern facility that meets the standards required today in professional baseball is very encouraging. We’re still involved in discussions with university representatives but remain hopeful that we can come to an agreement on the details."
Eugene first hosted a minor league baseball franchise as early as 1950, with the Emeralds playing continuously in Eugene since 1955. The Ems currently serve as minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
"The enthusiasm we have received from the baseball community has been overwhelming, as has the financial support from those individuals interested in building a first-class program," Kilkenny said. "But there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we field a team in the next eight months.
"We would not have been able to reach this point without the collaboration of several different interested parties and there are details that still need to be finalized between the ownership of the Eugene Emeralds and the City of Eugene," Kilkenny added. "But we are confident that everyone is working together to achieve the same goals."
The new stadium is expected to be built in two phases, with the total cost of the facility projected in the range of $12-$15 million. The university already has secured $6.5 million in gifts and pledges for the project, with ground breaking expected to take place no later than the fall of 2008.
The first phase of the stadium, estimated to cost between $3 and $4 million, is expected to include an artificial playing surface, temporary seating for between 1,000 and 2,000 spectators, as well as lights and dugouts.
The facility’s second phase will include a permanent grandstand for seating of between 4,000 and 5,000 fans, luxury suites, a state-of-the-art video board, picnic areas, locker rooms and clubhouses, as well as an Oregon baseball history exhibit.
"One of the biggest advantages of the Autzen Stadium site is that the baseball program will be able to utilize the tremendous resources that already exist in the vicinity of the Casanova Center, such as our weight room, athletic medicine center and indoor Moshofsky Center," Kilkenny said. "This will provide an enhanced experience for our student-athletes.
"At the same time, we will be able to incorporate a lot of the elements that will be built into the baseball stadium into our activities surrounding our football game-day experience."
Representatives of the university toured in excess of 15 college and minor league baseball stadiums for the purpose of gathering ideas and concepts in order to put together one of the best collegiate facilities in the country at Oregon. Architects have compiled a series of conceptual designs of features that could be included in the Ducks’ stadium, although final decisions have yet to be formulated.