Press "Enter" to skip to content

Asking the voters is sometimes the best policy

In case you missed it, in 2020, Major League Baseball (MLB) took over the business operations of Minor League Baseball (MiLB). Until this point, most MLB teams and their minor league affiliates had independent agreements with each other. The takeover brought about a lot of changes, one of which now has the Eugene (OR) City Council debating the merits of asking the voters there for money.

The change that’s pushed Eugene to the point of asking the voters to approve a new bond issue is a series of upgrades to MiLB parks that neither the Eugene Emeralds, the City of Eugene, Lane County, nor the University of Oregon have the money for. The Eugene Emeralds play at PK Park, which is the home of the University of Oregon’s baseball teams. The college baseball season doesn’t overlap the MiLB season, so until this point, sharing the facility among these teams has been easy.

But MLB has ordered upgrades to all MiLB stadiums that include revamped locker rooms, weight rooms, and other player spaces as well as plumbing improvements and park maintenance upgrades. MLB wants the updates in place by Opening Day 2025. The Emeralds say that it isn’t possible to upgrade PK Park to meet MLB’s demands and think it is better to build a new stadium (for a cool $100M) at the Lane County Fairgrounds.

The Eugene Emeralds enjoy a good relationship with their fans, so there’s a lot of interest in keeping the team in Eugene. The Eugene City Council is about to find out exactly how much interest is there.

Asking the voters is balancing the risk of building a new facility

The City of Eugene isn’t willing to guarantee bonds for a new stadium with its general fund, and they’ve made that entirely clear to anyone who’s listening. Adding to the already complicated situation is the fact that the Emeralds operate at a deficit of close to a quarter-million dollars every season.

Earlier this month, the Eugene City Council passed a motion that would put a ballot measure together for a May election if:

  • Lane County agrees to come up with some construction funding
  • The Emeralds figure out how to break even
  • The Emeralds figure out how to operate and maintain the new facility without using city funds

It’s too soon to tell how this will work out, but the Eugene City Council’s plan for asking the voters makes a lot more sense than NOT asking the voters and then sticking them with the bill for a public facility that can’t make ends meet.

It would be nice if the WCC Board of Trustees exercised that much consideration for the voters of Washtenaw County.

Photo Credit: David Guitegey Sierralupe , via Flickr