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University Land Swap: Yes, Please

August 8th, 2022 by dk

The University of Oregon has aggressive plans to expand its athletic facilities west of Autzen Stadium. They’d like to dedicate the Moshofsky Center to other sports and give football a curvaceous new indoor facility and two new practice fields. The renderings offered when the university announced the project in October highlight a clear roof over 170,000 square feet of practice space. 

From overhead, the roof looks like the university’s signature “O” melting in the sun. (No word whether the estate of Salvador Dali was consulted or reimbursed for the homage.) Oregon’s version of college football is built on audacity, and this practice facility will be no different. Recruits are already being wowed by the images. The structure will certainly attract more young talent to play football in Eugene.

There’s only one little problem with the university’s plan. They don’t have enough room. Leo Harris Parkway is in the way. So are portions of Alton Baker Park. The present home for the Eugene Science Factory may also be affected.

These present limitations are bringing the university to the negotiating table. Because realigning ambition will be harder than realigning roadways, the university will replace what’s lost for park patrons, essentially making everything in the area more compact.

In exchange for realigning Leo Harris Parkway, the university has offered the city eight acres of undeveloped land, south of the Willamette River and east of the new Downtown Riverfront Park. The proposed swap could become the most valuable land deal since John Musumeci lured PeaceHealth to RiverBend.

It has the potential to be a win for all parties, especially because the university is willing to think creatively to meet its ambitions.

UO gets a new facility to impress recruits. Parking becomes more convenient for Cuthbert Amphitheater patrons and the duck pond at Alton Baker Park. Maybe the Science Factory can be relocated to the old EWEB headquarters, to the fairgrounds, or to anchor new development around Lane Community College.

Those eight acres of valuable waterfront property will open pathways for Eugene’s next renaissance. Our dream of uniting the city and the university along the river may be coming into view. Should the city expand the park? Will they make it available for riverfront housing, adding substantial sums to the tax rolls? Might the university have seller’s remorse and buy it back when the Knight Campus needs to expand?

The city doesn’t need to know that answer right now. All the possible outcomes are good ones — and very likely to get better over time. Time is a valuable asset, when it’s leveraged properly. For example, the city wisely added a fourth story to the  downtown library for future expansion. The city can land bank those eight acres.

Eugene’s leaders should meet the moment with a little audacity of our own. Now is the time to remind the university and its benefactor about a system that has been whispered since the feds built themselves an audacious new courthouse.

All of Eugene’s riverfront improvements, finished and fantasized, will be improved with a gondola-style people-moving system across the river. Imagine how our own version of the Portland Aerial Tram will look on TV when ESPN GameDay comes to Eugene. Open the Autzen’s parking for students and faculty to use year-round. Then we’ll all feel better about football’s impact on our town’s trajectory. 

We’ve always been a river city, but we’ve forgotten how to tell that story. Eugene Skinner built his fortune by ferrying settlers. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Swap some land on either side of the river, but join the sides together in an audacious celebration of that river and its place in our history.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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