Editor’s Note: Mark Cryan, former MiLB general manager and Ballpark Digest contributing editor, embarked on an epic ballpark tour this summer, and he filed regular dispatches from the road. Today’s stop: PK Park, Eugene Emeralds.
One of the things I was really looking forward to on this trip was the opportunity to see Eugene’s Civic Stadium, the long-time home of the Eugene Emeralds (short season A; Northwest League). As luck would have it, this wooden gem burned to the ground just a few weeks before we visited.
We did visit the site of the ballpark, where the charred remains show the layout of the park, while the scoreboard still stands silent sentry over the scorched outfield. It was like seeing the corpse or gravesite of a famous actor or ballplayer that you had always hoped to meet; it’s sad, but you can’t look away.
Shiny, New and Dark Green
While a chapter of the Pacific Northwest’s baseball history is gone, a new page has been turned just a few miles away, on the campus of the University of Oregon. PK Park, named for former athletic director Pat Kilkenny and not Nike founder Phil Knight, is a first-class college facility that gives the Ducks the ability host NCAA regionals, while helping the Emeralds provide the sports fans of Eugene a team to follow during the summer break.
There are two permanent concessions stands, but no permanent souvenir shop. There is, though, lots of concourse space, and both the the Ems and the Ducks have added tented areas, carts and stands to compensate. Both the Ducks and the Ems sell beer at this college venue, though the Ducks place more restrictions on where you can take a beer during the course of a game.
The look of the facility is 100 percent Ducks, with the same flat dark green cladding with timbers supports underneath that is the hallmark of Oregon facilities, including the football stadium that sits just beyond the first base side of the ballpark. It is a clean, classy, yet modern look that is replicated throughout the university’s athletic complex. Despite this, the Emeralds have managed to mark this ballpark as their own. There is a massive Ems logo on the main entrance of the ballpark, and the in-ballpark signage and concourse banners highlights both the Emeralds’ many logos and their Cubs affiliation.
The Ems carry a longtime name associated with MiLB in their market, but the team’s most common marks — of a much more recent vintage — highlight an image of a Sasquatch. The forests around Oregon are supposed to be one of the stomping grounds for the big guy, and the team (collaborating with Brandiose) has had some fun with that, including a “take a picture with a Sasquatch” set up.
Prices are fairly standard for Minor League Baseball in a relatively affluent market on the West Coast, and the game presentation is excellent, with good music and fun promotions. There was a good crowd on the night we were there, the game staff is friendly, and there is a nice vibe to the whole experience.
Free Food Wednesday
Our time in Eugene was pretty easy on the wallet. We cashed in a few free taco coupons at Jack in the Box (thanks Reno Aces), and kids eat free Wednesday at Ems games.
A Great Hotel
I’d also like to give a thumbs up to a great hotel. Eugene is not a cheap town for a hotel room, and while we are staying in the van quite a bit, we do like to hit a hotel every so often. The Campus Inn in Eugene is not affiliated with any national brand, but their prices are very reasonable, and the owners and management of this place really care. There is fresh paint everywhere, hanging flowers, and rooms that are not fancy but are immaculate. We have stayed at some places on this trip where it was clear that no one really cared, and it was nice to see real pride in the way this place looks and operates. Two thumbs way up.