Andy Vobora, Travel Lane County
Nick Larsen, Oregon Amateur Basketball
For people in our community who no longer have kids or grandkids playing basketball, volleyball or other indoor sports, the realization that there isn’t adequate space for youth to practice and play may come as a surprise. After all, schools have gyms, Civic Park recently added gyms and soon a new YMCA will add more gym space. The reality is our population is growing and the demand for indoor space has outpaced the availability of indoor space.
One consequence of this lack of access is that team sports programs cannot provide age-appropriate practice times for kids. Generally, school access for younger kids can start as late as 6 p.m. The demands for space only increase when local adult league needs are added to the mix.
These needs for practice and league play don’t take into consideration the needs of tournament teams who are looking for practice space and space to host tournaments. Despite recent bond measures to improve facilities, School District 4j gyms are typically unavailable for basketball tournaments. Youth who participate in tournament sports desire an experience beyond recreational league play. It’s likely that you, or someone you know, have youth participating in tournament basketball, volleyball, cheer, wrestling or another sport. Parents of these youth are often on the road to Bend, Salem, Portland or out of state to provide opportunities for their kids to compete in tournaments. The time and money involved in these activities mounts quickly and is simply out of reach for some parents.
When we learned that work began on the development of a multiuse indoor sports facility more than four years ago we were very excited. The benefits of developing a large indoor sports facility are significant. Significant in that local needs for practice and league play could be better met and tournament teams could stay home and host tournaments rather than leaving town every weekend
For Oregon Amateur Basketball (OAB), the proposed 6 court facility will take pressure off local gyms and allow us to host smaller tournaments in the Fall and Spring. Many of the 100-150 team winter events I operate in Salem require 15-20 courts. These events generate much greater economic impact to the community and require access to multiple facilities. To host these larger tournaments in Eugene, OAB would be able to use the indoor facility as the headquarter space but will need access to additional gyms to meet the demand.
The Lane Events Center hosts sports activities in structures that are past their useful life and a planning process is looking at campus improvements that include a baseball stadium and other changes. In testimony before the Lane County Board of Commissioners, organizations like ours encouraged the Board of Commissioners to find a way to provide space for our youth to become and stay active. An indoor facility will revitalize the campus by providing space for our organizations, along with cheerleading, wrestling, pickleball, and other indoor sports event organizations, to keep our youth active and bring visitor dollars into the region throughout the year.
The County seems to be saying the baseball stadium comes first and we understand the time constraints that are required to keep professional baseball in our community. But we cannot wait 10 – 20 years for more indoor sports space. Our youth need space now. It’s time to come together as a community and find a way to make both projects come to life.