In December 2020, Minor League Baseball shrank from 162 teams down to 120. The Eugene Emeralds, who have played in the city since 1955, made the cut.
However, their facilities did not.
For many years, the Emeralds have been playing Single A short season ball – otherwise known as “Low A.” This means their schedule has typically been around 75 games per year. Now, after being boosted to Class A Advanced, or “High A,” their schedule will almost double to 136 games.
At the short season level, it is very common for teams to share a stadium with other local clubs, like the Emeralds do with the Oregon Ducks at PK Park. However, that stadium does not meet the standards of High A ball.
“To be fair, almost no minor league team meets them,” said Allan Benavides, who has served as General Manager of the Emeralds since 2009. Major League Baseball recognizes and understands that. They’ve given teams until 2025 to fix them.”
But there are plenty of issues that will arise before that 2025 deadline. The most pressing problem the club will face is accommodating home games when the minor league season overlaps with the Ducks’ collegiate season.
And if the team can’t meet MLB’s standard’s, the Emeralds would possibly be forced to leave Eugene — which would be the end of a 76 year tradition for this town.
“The only option to keep the Emeralds in Eugene-Springfield is to build a new stadium,” Benavides wrote in a public letter. “Or Major League Baseball will move the franchise to a new market and the Emeralds will be gone.”
One redeeming factor for the Emeralds is their recent signing of a ten-year contract as the San Francisco Giants High-A affiliate. This is great for the long term survival of the Emeralds, but it doesn’t mean they will remain in Eugene forever.
There are many factors that are being considered for the location of the next stadium but nothing has been settled yet. According to Benavides, over 20 locations in the Eugene-Springfield-area are being reviewed. But the number one factor in the decision is location.
“We would love to be able to replicate something like what our old stadium was. We would love to be close to town,” Benavides said. “That walkability factor. It’s what used to happen at Civic Stadium.”
The Emeralds moved from Civic Stadium to PK Park in 2010, and the old home of the Emeralds burned down in 2015. The old Civic Stadium site was transformed into the Kidsports Fieldhouse.
Though it will cost an estimated 40 million dollars, Benavides argues in his public letter that the economic boost from a new baseball stadium will far outweigh the initial construction costs.
“A new Emeralds ballpark would provide more than $75 million in economic output during construction alone,” Benevides writes. “And another $32 million year-round with 250,000 baseball fans, 86,400 concert-goers coming in-and-out of the ballpark each and every year, and more seasonal jobs for youth and senior citizens.”
According to Benavides, the biggest obstacle to overcome with this project is fitting the construction in a short time frame. The team has yet to settle on a location, but know they will need a new home in the next three to four years. Benavides believes the MLB has given them enough time, however, from an “operational stand-point” the team needs a new home as soon as possible.
The bottom line is that the Emeralds do not want to leave Eugene.
“The ownership of the team, [they’ve] owned the team since 1982. We do not want to leave this market,” Benavides said. “The fundamental truth of this ordeal is that if we don’t get a stadium built Major League Baseball will move this team to a different market, likely out of state.”
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