It was an historic season for the Oregon Softball program, with a No. 1 national ranking and a trip to the Women's College World Series. The season may now be over, but the good news keeps on coming: Oregon alumnus Robert Sanders has donated $10 million to fund a new softball facility. It sounds like $10 million won't be the entire cost of the facility, as that amount is being used to launch the funding drive, but it should be the lion's share of what's needed to get a new facility built.
This is significant for a number of reason. Howe Field is an absolute dump, and is one of the worst facilities in the conference. To stay near the top of the ultra-competitive Pac-12, you have to have a facility to match the other schools. Howe Field stood in even more contrast when compared to the other athletic facilities on campus, where the softball team is the only one without a relatively new place to play.
It also brings up the question of siting--where will the new facility be built? It almost certainly won't be built on the current site of Howe Field--both because they will need that facility until the new one is opened, but also because this will open up the whole University Street corridor (Mac Court and Howe Field) to redevelopment. On a campus that is completely closed in with no room to expand, that's a significant chunk of space. I have absolutely no inside knowledge on the siting of the new field, but the intramural field on the riverfront at the base of the Autzen footbridge would be a compelling spot.
Few details are known yet, but the fact that the softball team will finally have a facility worthy of t heir program is a great step in its continued success.