Eugene, Ore. -- The Eugene Emeralds are in the market for a new home, General Manager Allan Benavides confirmed to KEZI on Thursday. It's not imminent, but the Ems have until 2025 to find a full time stadium of their own in the Eugene/Springfield area or face the possibility of relocation.
"We've looked at different locations in Springfield, we've looked at different locations in Eugene," says Benavides. "That's the number one goal. The simple fact is if we don't find something, Major League Baseball will move the team to somewhere they can build the facility."
While the Emeralds have leased PK Park from the University of Oregon since 2009, the agreement was made at a time when the thought of High A minor league baseball in Eugene was a pipe dream, at best. With Major League Baseball's reshuffling of minor league affiliates, the Emeralds have found themselves in need of a stadium that fits the league's criteria. PK Park, for instance, lacks an on-site visitors locker room (away teams get ready just off to the side of the ballpark) and a locker room to accommodate female umpires and coaches specifically.
Scheduling challenges have also arisen due to a longer season in High A baseball. The Emeralds will start in April as opposed to late May after the conclusion of the Pac-12 baseball season. The University of Oregon also takes priority in terms of game times, practice times, and practice facility usage. A wholly owned Emeralds stadium allows the newly minted San Francisco Giants affiliate to set their own schedule and foster community engagement however they see fit.
"We'd love to be able to host local high school baseball teams because we'd love to build a turf field," he explains. "Having local high school baseball teams play at the ballpark. Host local and regional championships at the ballpark."
In addition to baseball, the Emeralds see a stadium and facility as a community resource.
"Being able to host like I said, haunted stadium events, nonprofit events, concerts...there's a ton of events that ballparks do across the country to use the ballpark," says Benavides. "I would love for it to be the community front porch of activities that they can do at the ballpark.
Eugene's home stadium for years was Civic Stadium in south Eugene, but the Ems moved to PK Park in 2009. Civic Stadium was destroyed in 2015 in a two alarm fire that rendered the facility a total loss. In the time since, the Eugene Civic Alliance has revitalized the area, building recreational and community sports venues in the space. To Benavides, Civic Stadium is an integral part of the Emeralds history and hearkens back to a time when the Ems were embedded in the community in a different way than they are at PK Park.
"If we had our own stadium, if we could get back into the neighborhood and have an Ems stadium, it would give it that community feel that we had at Civic Stadium. But having our own stadium going back to our roots as a community ballpark, that's the goal. That's what we want."
The Emeralds submitted a proposal for nine acres of space in the Glenwood area to the Springfield Economic Development Agency. The SEDA will hear proposals on Monday. Two other bidders, including a commercial real estate and mixed use development have submitted plans as well. The latter proposal includes a stadium for Lane United FC.