Should Lane County build a new baseball stadium at the fairgrounds? Tell your County Commissioners what you think. But first, let’s hear from the General Manager of the Eugene Emeralds.
[00:00:09] Allan Benavides: Hello everybody. My name is Allan Benavides. I’m the General Manager for the Eugene Emeralds. I have been here as the GM since 2010. And my wife’s a third grade teacher at Holt Elementary. And I’ve made this my home. I very much love this community. And it has been a really blessing for my family and myself to been here in the last dozen years.
[00:00:33] We won our third championship title in the last five seasons, which is pretty cool, but baseball like the Emeralds isn’t about, yes, it’s about baseball, but it’s much more than that. It’s about what we do in the community. It’s what we did to help save the Boys and Girls Club here locally from closing down back in 2011. It’s about our ticket vouchers for a reading program. We’re very engaged with our nonprofits in the community, and honestly, I say this to the staff all the time: ‘We’re not a baseball team. Like we are literally in the business of creating memories.’
[00:01:06] Next year we’re going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mike Schmidt playing as an Emerald. So we’re going to retire his number and we’re going to do a bobblehead of him. And he’s going to come out. It’s going to be an amazing event. We’re really excited to have him. What is it? 50 years since he played at Civic Studium, but people still remember it fondly.
[00:01:24] We’ve been recognized nationally as being a leader for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for years now. And I currently sit on the board for D E & I for Major League Baseball and Monarcas Baseball is our Latino brand. To me, it’s probably the coolest brand that I’ve ever been able to be a part of it. And to give you guys a quick story, Major League Baseball is trying very heavily to recruit more Latin fans. You know, half of our players are Latino, but 90 percent of our fans are white. And so we got to kind of figure out how to bridge that gap, not only with the Latino fans, but also with our Black fans. And we have a lot of initiatives trying to figure out how to be more inclusive. And I have taken the forefront on how to do that, and Monarcas Baseball has been the example of how to do it right. And Monarcas Baseball to me is something that’s very close. Not only am I only one of three Latino general managers in Minor League Baseball, but I’m very proud to be a part of this effort.
[00:02:23] Even though the Latino fan base in Eugene is very small, it is a growing dynamic in our community, and I believe it’s really important to engage with them and create something that they feel like they own. Monarcas Baseball is every Sunday at the ballpark. We have mariachi, we have Black music, and this year, we will have a Spanglish PA announcer that will do every Monarcas Baseball game.
[00:02:47] We have a dynamic fan base and we believe that we can not only take what we currently do as a short season team, but really expand that to a full season team and beyond with high school games, concerts, haunted stadium Halloween events, Christmas events, Chamber events, nonprofit events, and how to activate the new ballpark in a very like dynamic economic-growth atmosphere. What we’re proposing to the county conservatively is 120 events, which is 66 home games and other events that the community can use.
[00:03:23] We want to build something where our kids can come in and use year-round. We’ve been talking to the OSAA where we can do 4-A, 5-A, and 6-A championship baseball games . The facility that we’re proposing on building not only we’ll host 6,000 people for a baseball game, all also hold up to 10,000 to 12,000 people for an outdoor concert.
[00:03:42] And we can we can use that power for hotels, restaurants, more jobs in our community, but we want to be able to use that leverage to really drive the economic and entertainment destination that Eugene should be. We are a perfect hub right off I-5, that we can do something really great.
[00:04:02] John Q: Allan said the Emeralds must soon leave PK Park. He hopes they won’t have to leave town.
[00:04:08] Allan Benavides: I’m currently in Orlando, Florida for the winter baseball meetings. So if you hear fireworks, the background is because of Epcot and Disney. But to give you guys an idea of what we’re at right now, we talk about the new chapter of baseball, right? We have been talking about it since I got down in Orlando a few days ago. So for those of you that don’t know, Major League Baseball took over minor league baseball and they now own it where minor league baseball used to be its own separate entity, Major League Baseball now owns minor league baseball.
[00:04:38] They also promoted our league to High A baseball, which is the best level of baseball that this community has seen since 1974. Basically our players are older, they’re bigger, they’re stronger, and they are two levels away from the big leagues. That also means that our team is now a long season club. So we are now playing 132 games, so 66 home games, 66 road games. And to be honest, it doesn’t work at PK Park. The facilities do not meet this new code that Major League Baseball is requiring. Major League Baseball has welcomed, rightfully so, a lot of women in the coaching ranks, athletic trainers, umpires, and we don’t have any facilities for them to change there at all. We don’t have a gym. We only have one locker room and we just don’t have the space to host two teams when there are two different baseball teams playing at PK Park.
[00:05:38] We have a big vote coming up on December 14th, regarding the commissioners allowing the Emeralds and the County to move forward on building this facility at the fairgrounds.
[00:05:49] John Q: Allan said baseball, championships, and outdoor concerts will draw visitors from Lane County and beyond. Tell your Lane County commissioner what you think, before December 14.