Save Civic Stadium (SCS) is disappointed with 4J’s decision to reject Rick Wright’s short term lease offer. It was one solicited by the district and one that offered a great deal of short term benefit to the district. With this rejection, the schools lose an un-budgeted cash injection of $250,000, which is ironic given the clear impression that financial considerations chiefly govern 4J’s decisions about the site. We understand and respect the reasoning behind that rejection; the unwillingness to give an implicit advantage in future negotiations, among others. But despite that advantage, the school board would still retain decision making authority. And clearly it is in no one’s best interests to take three years to fully develop a plan.
Since June, when the RFP process was complete, SCS has been working together with the Eugene Family Y with coordination and support by Rick Wright of the Market of Choice grocery chain. We have been working to create a joint plan to redevelop the property. The site is large enough to accommodate the stadium complex plus the facilities wanted by the Y. With the rejection of Wright’s offer by 4J, development of this joint proposal has been abandoned.
It is our hope that the school district has not set its mind on recommending sale of the stadium to the highest bidder. During the recent RFP process, the great outburst of community emotion made it clear what direction the public wants taken. Thousands of people, especially neighbors who are most impacted, feel that the stadium site must continue to be a non-commercial place. It is important to remember the site was given to the district for $1 in the 1930’s. The stadium was built by the community through donations and public contributions. The school district has a moral obligation to make sure it continues to be used for the public’s benefit if it is no longer needed.
In our opinion, an approach by the district that is strictly financial is a mistake, both morally and from a public relations standpoint. There are compelling reasons why the school district should use a different set of criteria to develop their disposition strategy.
With one year budget deficits in the tens of millions of dollars, and future deficits likely if nothing changes, the amount received in a one time 10 acre property sale is relatively insignificant. As conceded by the district, revenues must increase in order to reduce these deficits. That revenue must come from tax payers. For them to be willing to pay more in taxes, the school district’s image must be positive. Its attitudes must be in sync with the public’s attitudes regarding relevant issues. People must have confidence in district leadership. We recently experienced the public outcry that resulted from district staff’s recommendation to allow the site to become a Fred Meyer shopping center. Even though it might have been the most financially prudent, the public adamantly felt it should not be permitted.
The school district is a public body; essentially the public owns Civic Stadium. Citizens are the school district’s stockholders and rather than cash dividends, they want their interests reflected in district decisions. If the district attempts again to allow a shopping center on this public site, many voters may turn on the district and refuse to support future tax, bond and board member elections.
Save Civic Stadium seeks to meet with 4J to share more details about what we intend to do. We are working tirelessly on our business plan and are actually in negotiations with an existing USL soccer team franchise holder that is looking to expand and is interested in bringing a team to Eugene. That team would play at Civic Stadium if we acquire and renovate it.
Except for a summit meeting two months ago, the school district has not sought our input. Decisions have been made with input from staff, the private sector and others who are looking out for their own best interests. We have been working for almost five years as volunteers interested in providing what’s best for the public. We feel we deserve to be a party to the process. Working with SCS, the Y, and Rick Wright will benefit the school district and the community more in the long run than will selling or leasing the site to the highest bidder, regardless of their intended use.
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FoCS Work Party and Update Schedule:
• Tentative date for next cleanup - June 15
Watch email alerts and the Eugene Weekly for additional opportunities.