Eugene, Ore. -- Lane United FC is part of a mixed use development proposal to revitalize the Glenwood area, Managing Director Dave Galas confirmed to KEZI on Tuesday. The proposal, which includes commercial real estate, retail and a stadium for LUFC is one of many developments pitched on a nine acre tract of land right along the Willamette River, across from downtown Springfield. But for Lane United, it means a path to something Galas and his ownership group have long coveted: an expansion opportunity to go from an amateur club operating three months out of the year to a professional club with an academy, eight month season and its' own stadium.
The USL League One, the third division of professional soccer in the United States, has already approved the Eugene/Springfield market for expansion and has entered into an expansion agreement with Localis, the group behind the development proposal, pending the creation of a stadium for Lane United. If the proposal is approved by the Springfield Economic Development Agency, Galas believes that it has the chance to revitalize an area of town that has long been underutilized.
"Aligning all those pieces and creating a community space where we can join what we're trying to build to a public plaza or town square of that sort and tie into the river and the great park system that the city of Springfield has already engaged on is an exciting opportunity," Galas explains.
This development proposal in particular also has the backing of the two adjacent landowners in Glenwood, Roth & Roth LLC and M3 Commerical Real Estate LLC. One has already executed a memorandum of understanding (the other is in the process of finalizing one, per documents) that commits to collaborating with the LOCALIS project, turning nine acres of land into potentially up to 32 acres. Galas took a meeting with one of the owners to explain their vision and came away with the answer he hoped for.
"He literally turned to my business partner and I and said 'I've been waiting a long time for you guys to come along'," recalls Galas. "That this is the proposal that he's been waiting for to put his land into to be a partner in developing."
The Glenwood area is part of what is known as an Opportunity Zone, a census tract defined by the U.S. government as having a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher and a media household income that is less than 80 percent of the surrounding area. Zones like Glenwood are part of a tax incentive program that aims to attract capital investments into these distressed communities.
What it allows is for investors to take unrealized capital gains and reinvest them into funds in exchange for a tax exemption on any new capital gains made on new investments, a temporary tax deferral and a reduction in the original amount of capital gains tax. The goal for the program is to take the gains that are in mutual funds or stocks and turn them into investments to build up communities.
Galas has seen how soccer clubs can benefit from programs such as these. In Pawtucket, Rhode Island and Phoenix, Arizona, clubs are building stadiums that are part of mixed use developments that include everything from hotels to casinos, commercial real estate to apartment buildings. A stadium for Lane United in the LOCALIS development, Galas says, can be a central gathering point and entertainment venue for those that live in, work at, or come visit the area.
There is also the potential to turn the stadium into a meeting place, concert venue, used for academy teams and many other things to make it a community resource. Some tech startups and companies have already thrown their support behind the project, with Sheer ID, a digital verification platform based in Eugene, committing to headquarter in the development if it is approved.
"[We have] the opportunity to work with our local tech sector and help build the development out as a 'work, play, live' type of situation where you have the fastest growing tech company in Sheer ID interesting in moving their headquarters there."
The temporary tax deferral offered by Glenwood's status as an opportunity zone would also help attract startup ventures and small businesses that will need help finding their footing in an area that would be transformed by the development, according to Galas.
But for Lane United, it will achieve a long held goal that existed back before Civic Stadium burned down. The club had planned on trying to renovate the facility until its' destruction in 2015. To finally bring a professional soccer club to the area ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which will be held in the United States, would be a nice bow on top of a project Galas says he fully believes in.
"As we go pro working with academy programs being more intertwined with the community, having local kids playing, having local kids aspire to be on the first team and compete on the national stage, I think it's huge."