EUGENE — Less than a week removed from its semifinals loss at the Women's College World Series, the Oregon softball team received some encouraging news late Saturday evening.
Athletic director Rob Mullens announced a $10 million donation from former UO football player Robert Sanders that will jump-start construction of a new softball stadium.
The Ducks completed their most successful season in program history this spring and went 19-2-1 at Howe Field, which was built in 1936 and was the original home of the UO baseball team until 1981.
"This gift is a major step forward in this project," Mullens said in a release from the university. "We are as eager as our fans, student-athletes, coaches and donors to turn this dream into a reality."
The new facility will be named after Sanders' late wife, O. Jane Sanders, who died in 2013.
Robert Sanders played fullback for the Ducks from 1947 to 1949, and had a successful career in the lumber industry, according to the release.
Many of the same questions that have held up construction in the past remain. The release said "work will now begin in earnest" to solidify a site for the new stadium, with an anticipated groundbreaking and opening yet to be determined.
"I'm thrilled to announce a leading gift to Oregon softball that will pave the way to a new era for our highly successful program," Mullens said in the release. "Thanks to Mr. Sanders' generosity, we will be able to ride the momentum of this amazing season and create a new home for Ducks softball."
Howe Field has undergone several renovations in the 26 years that UO softball games have been held there. Dugouts and a new backstop were added in 1996, a new scoreboard followed in 1998 and permanent light standards were added in 2009.
The venue's capacity is listed at 1,400, though the addition of temporary bleachers helped Oregon bring in two stadium-record crowds of more than 1,900 during the super regionals last month.
"We cannot thank Robert enough for his generosity," President Michael Gottfredson said in the release.