For weeks now, we’ve been hearing about the problems with Hayward Field — the rotting supports, the leaky roof, the uneven steps — as justification for tearing down the East Grandstand.
Last week, the R-G’s Chris Hansen got to inspect those issues up close. Read his story in Tuesday’s paper, and you’ll see what university officials have been talking about when they say the stadium is in bad shape. If you believe Oregon should have tried harder to save the East Grandstand, you’ll find ammunition to support that position, too.
The cost to address the East Grandstand’s structural issues, according to project manager Jim Petsche, has been estimated at $7 million. That’s not nothing, but in the scope of a project with a reported $200 million budget, it’s a drop in the bucket.
As I read it, that $7 million wouldn’t include the cost of restrooms, ADA accommodations, seismic retrofitting and other much-needed upgrades to the stadium’s east side. But even if you add those costs to the ledger, it’s hard to believe that money was the driving factor in deciding to raze the grandstand.
In fact, Petsche pretty much said as much.
“We see these people, and they’re well-intentioned people, that are going, ‘You gotta save that thing,’” Petsche said. “It’s an iconic structure, there’s no question. ... The building team struggled with it, because we all get that empathy related to the building and the history of the place. But in the end we said it doesn’t match with where we want to go.”
It appears to me that the grandstand is coming down not because it’s beyond repair, but because it doesn’t fit with the vision for the project. That isn’t sitting well with those who see the profile of the East Grandstand as essential to the aura of Hayward Field.
The Eugene City Council has a work session scheduled for Wednesday afternoon where it's expected to take up the issue of making Hayward Field a city landmark. People supporting that proposal include the Bowerman family, the Prefontaine family and Bowerman biographer Kenny Moore.
I think they have a legitimate gripe about the bait-and-switch aspect of the Hayward project, which was sold to the public on the basis of preserving the character of the East Grandstand. Appealing to the city council seems like a last resort, one that’s unlikely to change the fate of the stadium. But I sense the preservationists have at least succeeded in getting the university’s attention and creating some uneasiness about potential delays.
As I wrote the other day, I think it’s time for the two sides of the stadium debate to hash things out. Opening up the stadium for inspection was a good start, but there’s more that could be done.
“Sustainability” is a big buzz word here in Eugene. I’d love to see a more detailed explanation for how tearing down the stadium meets the university’s objectives in that area. Or if nothing else, at least a plan for how materials can be salvaged from the East Grandstand and repurposed in a way that benefits the community.
I looked through the publicly available materials for such an explanation. The most I found was a line about how the new Hayward will “celebrate environmental stewardship/green products.” Oregon is all about innovation, right? So let’s put some teeth to that and find a creative way to make use of the old materials.
I’m just spitballing here, realizing that nothing short of total preservation is going to satisfy the most ardent defenders of the East Grandstand. While I empathize with their feelings, I think it’s time to swallow hard and accept some compromises, on all sides.
After seeing what it would cost to bring the East Grandstand up to date, I feel fairly confident in saying it’s not really about the money. It’s about the will and the vision of those who want to see a total transformation instead of a modest makeover.
When they have the will, they usually find a way.
Follow Austin on Twitter @austinmeekRG. Email firstname.lastname@example.org