February 29, 2024

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From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Council sets conditions for new stadium vote

4 min read
The city said several moving pieces will need to come together in "a perfect storm" around Feb. 1 so that a $15 million Ems stadium bond can appear on the May ballot.

The Eugene City Council set three conditions for moving ahead with a $15 million bond election to help the Emeralds build a new stadium. On Dec. 13:

Councilor Randy Groves: One of the things that’s really caught my attention as well, I mean, we receive communications constantly on a number of issues, many, many communications. So oftentimes when we have big issues before us, these communications come in the form of form letters. What has impressed me about the fans that are pushing for a level of support here, is that most of these have not been form letters, they’ve been written about personal experiences and what the Eugene Emeralds has meant to their families…

[00:00:45] I think we’ve received enough feedback, it’s worthy of putting this in the voters’ hands, letting them tell us what they want to do.

[00:00:54] John Q: The first condition is: Lane County must commit funding. The council would make its final decision, according to Councilor Groves—

[00:01:01] Councilor Randy Groves: —as soon as possible after the city receives notification from Lane County that they have committed funds for construction of the multi-use stadium project.

[00:01:10] John Q: Councilor Alan Zelenka added two more conditions. The Ems will have to show where they’ll find the rest of the $100 million cost. He also said the Operation and Maintenance plan shouldn’t rely on city funding.

[00:01:24] Councilor Alan Zelenka: I would ask if we could add in two more conditions, which is:

(1) A definitive plan to fill the current funding gap;

(2) A guarantee or plan for the stadium O&M that does not rely on any city resource.

[00:01:37] So, I think all three are important. I think it would be a mistake to send something to the ballot if we’re not going to move forward with the project. And so, I think we should prepare something, be ready to pull the trigger if the conditions are met and put it on the ballot.

[00:01:55] But what those conditions are are important. Basically, you have to have a plan to fund it and you have to have the commitment from the county and there has to be some assurances that it’s not going to fall back on the city for any operating costs.

[00:02:09] To me those are kind of the basic three things that are essential for us to say ‘Yes’ to this. And I’d love to see them stay here, but it’s not entirely in the city’s hands to make sure that they do that. There’s other people that have to step up, including the Ems ownership themselves.

[00:02:28] Councilor Jennifer Yeh: I just have a question. Do we have to put specific conditions? I mean, can it just be like, we’re going to write this thing and we’re going to decide if we want to do it later?

[00:02:39] Sarah Medary (City manager): That’s how I’m understanding it. We wouldn’t bring it back until those things were in place.

[00:02:44] Councilor Jennifer Yeh: Oh, okay. So we wouldn’t even bother putting it on the agenda unless that’s what the conditions are. Okay. Okay. I wanted to understand why we were doing that. Thank you so much.

[00:02:51] John Q: The city’s Planning and Development executive director said the planets will have to align to keep the Emeralds in Eugene.

[00:02:59] Denny Braud (Planning and Development executive director): There will likely be a go / no-go moment early next year where the perfect storm of things will need to come together to ultimately determine whether the project moves forward.

[00:03:10] And those things include Lane County action on the transient lodging tax and car rental tax to approve what portion of the 2% increase that was approved—what portion of that will be dedicated to the stadium project.

[00:03:25] A second round of funding from the state of Oregon is in play and they’re hoping that that will be considered at the beginning of the year in the short session.

[00:03:36] Also, an outline of the lease terms and the operating agreement between Lane County and the Ems will also be very important. Hopefully we’ll have that information early next year. And it’s important in ensuring that the city has no responsibilities for the operating cost, which is the assumption that is being made right now by the county.

[00:03:57] The Ems are also expecting to receive an updated deadline for Major League Baseball and it’s my understanding that Major League Baseball is likely to give them until something in the neighborhood of around May to demonstrate that they have a firm plan for a new place to play that meets all the stadium requirements.

[00:04:15] And, of course, the Ems will need to also present more clarity on how the remaining project financing gap gets filled through fundraising, sponsorship, etc…

[00:04:26] So, again, it appears that all of these moving pieces will need to all kind of come together at about the same time early next year, no later than around plus or minus Feb. 1 to get that on the May ballot.

[00:04:39] John Q: The city does its part to protect its taxpayers, and now it’s up to Lane County, the state legislature, the Ems’ owners and Major League Baseball. They’ll need to provide commitments and details by Feb. 1 so that the city can meet the deadlines for the election in May.

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