April 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

City does its part; Ems fans now look to Oregon legislature

5 min read
There's two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and it looks grim for the Emeralds as they're down to their final chance. But these Eugene fans never give up on their team. They're rising up out of their seats. They're up on their feet—cheering, wishing, hoping, praying for a miracle.

The Eugene City Council did its part, and now all eyes turn to the Oregon legislature. In a 7-1 vote, the council met a city deadline to approve the stadium bond measure for the May election.

But they also reserved the right to pull the measure from the ballot before the next and final election deadline – the one set by the state. On Feb. 21:

Councilor Randy Groves (Feb. 21, 2024): If this is going to be on the May ballot, it has to be decided today. At the same time, we could still pull it off, I believe March 13 is the deadline, if you could confirm that.

[00:00:36] Kathryn Brotherton (City attorney): Councilor Groves, what you recited as the timeline is accurate. Today is the last day of which the council can pass legislation that refers it, and that’s the 90 days before the May election. And then, 60 days prior is the deadline for actually submitting the ballot measure to the county, and that’s a state and county requirement. And that would be March 21…

Your last meeting before March 21 is March 13, and so March 13 would be your last meeting where you could prevent it from going to the voters. And in essence, what I would be providing is a motion to repeal your resolution.

[00:01:18] John Q: The legislature’s contribution is now the key to the deal. The city council unanimously agreed on Dec. 13, 2023, they would go ahead only if Lane County explained their plan to fill the funding gap. Last December:

[00:01:33] Councilor Alan Zelenka (Dec. 13, 2023): I think it would be a mistake to send something to the ballot if we’re not going to move forward with the project. Basically, you have to have a plan to fund it…

[00:01:42] I think the Ems are a historic and invaluable asset to this community. 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.

[00:01:56] John Q: Announcing the unanimous vote on those conditions, Mayor Lucy Vinis.

[00:02:00] Mayor Lucy Vinis (Dec. 13, 2023): All in favor, please raise your hands. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Looks like that passes unanimously.

[00:02:13] Councilor Alan Zelenka (Feb. 12, 2024): There were three conditions that we asked of the county before we put this on the ballot. One was that there’d be a plan to fill the gap for financing. I’ve not heard that there is one…

[00:02:25] The reasons we put those conditions on and didn’t refer it to the voters at that point was ’cause those are big gaps in this whole plan and putting something out on the ballot and having people go through a campaign, put all that effort, we should be cognizant of the amount of work that all that will take.

[00:02:42] Can staff please bring back a status when we have this discussion on (Feb.) 21?  

[00:02:46] John Q: On Feb. 21, councilors heard the county’s answer about filling the funding gap: The county is asking $7.5 million from the state.

[00:02:58] Sarah Medary (Eugene city manager): This came straight from Lane County. This is a presentation they gave to the board. So this was, you know, these numbers are a little bit dated, but at the time they were predicting about $100 million project, to include the livestock facility rebuild.

[00:03:12] And they had identified $57 million worth of secured funding, and still had a gap of $43 million. So that $43 million gap was anticipated. And there’s some language in the AIS (agenda item summary) about how they would fill that. It was anticipated to be filled with additional funding from the state, potentially additional funding from the federal government; an ask from the city of Eugene for $15 million; and potentially more funding from the team and the ownership group.

[00:03:43] So since that time, they have come forward and said that they intend to raise an additional $10 million. If all of that came together, it looks like there’s still about a $9 million gap…

So your discussion to this point has asked for three things from the county. You’ve asked for a commitment from them that they intend to actually fund the construction of the project; that they have a definitive plan to fill the funding gap; and that they’ve provided a guarantee or a plan for operations and maintenance that doesn’t rely on city resources.

[00:04:15] The county’s answers to those questions are included in your packet. I’ve reached out, at least one additional time, saying, ‘Hey, we’re meeting today. Do you have additional information?’ And none has been provided yet.

[00:04:27] John Q: Legislators typically wrap up their spending bills at the close of the session.

[00:04:36] Councilor Randy Groves (Feb. 21, 2024): I would like to see what we can obtain by March 13. The questions that are being asked, I think, are reasonable and somehow we’ve been placed in a position where this is, seems like it’s all up to us. And that just doesn’t seem right, when it’s really a county project.

[00:04:54] I think it’s potentially a good county project, especially if the county takes the next step and moves the fairgrounds somewhere else to give that whole site an opportunity for redevelopment and more housing, kind of in the center of our community, and revitalize an area that sometimes can be a little depressed.

[00:05:13] Councilor Alan Zelenka (Feb. 21, 2024): I think the state money, additional state money is a tough sell. And there’s still a big remaining gap…

[00:05:19] This is not a legislative priority for the county in this session. And it is a county, not a city project, so we don’t get to decide whether or not it lives or dies.

[00:05:30] John Q: Ems fans were successful in lobbying the city council. Now their hopes for a new stadium shift to the state legislature as the county’s funding plan relies on the state providing $7.5 million. We’ll know by March 10.

[00:05:46] Councilor Matt Keating: My fingers are crossed and I hope that by the time the legislature adjourns on March 10, we’ll know more. And then can make that final decision on or before March 13.

City draws a free pass, Ems fans don rally caps

Emeralds announcer: There’s two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and it looks grim for the Emeralds as they’re down to their final chance. But these Eugene fans never give up on their team. They’re rising up out of their seats. They’re up on their feet—cheering, wishing, hoping, praying for a miracle.

They’ve donned their rally caps. Their Los Monarcas caps are inside out. Their Exploding Whales caps are backwards, and people who were once complete strangers are now hugging and crying together.

And now they erupt in jubilation! The city of Eugene has drawn a free pass and is trotting down to first base. There’s still hope for the Emeralds as the city of Eugene has done its part.

And now stepping up to the plate, it’s the Oregon legislature, with Lane County on deck. It’s the legislature’s turn to keep this rally going. The fans are stomping and clapping. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any louder, these Ems fans are taking it to another level!

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