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City to ask voters to approve bonding for new Eugene Emeralds ballpark

The Eugene City Council moved forward with a public vote on $15 million in bonding for a new Eugene Emeralds ballpark, but a host of conditions need to be met before the issue goes on the ballot.

The High-A Northwest League team is seeking a new ballpark on Lane County fairgrounds land. The Emeralds currently call PK Park on the University of Oregon campus home, but the move there from Civic Stadium came when the Northwest League was a short-season circuit and before MLB imposed new facility standards on MiLB–standards that PK Park doesn’t come close to meeting. With the University of Oregon seemingly disinterested in considering facility upgrades, the Ems have developed a new-ballpark plan that calls for:

  • $15 million from the city of Eugene;
  • $35 million from Lane County in the form of proceeds of car-rental and hotel taxes;
  • $13.5 million from the Emeralds;
  • $7.5 million from the state; and
  • $1.5 million from the federal government.

However, the city council action doesn’t actually put anything on the ballot; it starts the process of drafting the ballot language, which must be approved by February in order to make it on the May ballot. And the council made it clear there were plenty of conditions were to be met before voters were asked to approve the bonding.

First, Lane County must formally commit to using the proceeds of car-rental and hotel taxes on the new ballpark. The county has already implemented the taxes but not yet approved using the proceeds–either partially or totally–on ballpark construction, and there will likely be a debate at the county when it comes to a final funding level. Second, the team must commit to a plan to fund the ballpark after the city and county commitments; the $13.5 million from the team is currently structured as rent prepayment. Right now the proposed budget for the ballpark itself is $90.3 million (an additional $10 million is proposed for other fairgrounds improvements), which means there could be a funding gap as high as $33 million. Third, an operating plan for the ballpark’s finances upon opening–including maintenance–must be submitted by the Ems.

Teams are under an MLB deadline of 2025 to address facility issues, but we’re seeing teams pushing the envelope to 2026. Given that the earliest city voters could approve bonding is May 2024, it’s hard to see the team making a 2025 deadline.

Images courtesy Eugene Emeralds.

RELATED STORIES: City debates bond issue for new Eugene Emeralds ballpark; Key vote on new Eugene Emeralds ballpark set for todayEmeralds, Lane County move forward on new multiuse ballpark planningEmeralds on notice from MLB: Find a new home

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