The text came from my sister last night while I was coaching a football workout.
"Civic Stadium is burning down."
My heart sank.
This was historic Civic Stadium in Eugene before it burned to the ground last night. (2nd pic @KVALnews) Total loss. pic.twitter.com/rgwEbPMBf1— MLBcathedrals (@MLBcathedrals) June 30, 2015
Civic Stadium, on the surface, has nothing to do with the Ducks. Oregon never played there. Instead, it was home to the Eugene Emeralds, the city's longtime minor league baseball team. Built in the '30s as a WPA project, the stadium was nestled into South Eugene and was a major part of Eugene childhoods for decades. No doubt, many Oregon students attending summer term also went to games there.
Economics of sports being what they are, when the Emeralds had a chance to move to PK Park, they took it. No, PK is no match for Civic Stadium's stunning views of the south hills. It's not in a charming Eugene neighborhood. It has no history or nostalgia. But it's a fine new stadium that, most importantly, has luxury suites and lots of concession areas, most important for modern sports teams trying to maximize profit margins. It's a fine place to watch a game, but it's no Civic Stadium.
That could have been the end of Civic, and many thought it would be. It's a common refrain in cities across America--the new stadium goes up, and the old one goes down. Most cities are okay with that. Eugene is different, and Civic was different. Eugeneans fought for years to keep the place from being turned into another big box parking lot.
And it seemed like those wanting to preserve the stadium had won. The park was purchased by the Eugene Civic Alliance. The stadium was not just going to be preserved, it was going to be fully renovated, transformed so that generations more of Eugene's children could make their memories there. This was the design. It was incredible. It was going to host soccer, and high school football, and Kidsports, and a facility like that would have no doubt host OSAA state championship games.
And that's maybe the most heartbreaking part of this. How hard those people worked to save Civic. Eugene was going to be different. They weren't going to just let their history die. They had saved her, only to have her ripped away. Eugene lost a treasure, and not at all on its own terms.
I can't count the great times I've had a Civic Stadium, but three memories stand out:
1. I only remember this player's name because this was the longest home run I've ever seen. Daryl Jones blasted a home run well over the 410' sign in straightaway center. This ball ended up somewhere on Amazon Parkway, and must have easily went 440'.
2. The Emeralds used to host a home game every 4th of July. We'd sit on my then girlfriend's (now wife's) front steps in the South Hills every year and catch the show from her house. Her front window was basically a panorama of Civic Stadium.
3. I was lucky enough to take my oldest son there twice. He'll never remember, but it's something that I'll always treasure.
We have no idea what's going to happen now. the Eugene Civic Alliance still owns the site, and I hope that it's still turned into a community sports complex that can make more great memories for kids.
RIP Civic Stadium. You deserved a much better fate.