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Ducks, Emeralds likely to share stadium

EUGENE — The University of Oregon and the Eugene Emeralds are close to a deal that would have the minor-league baseball team play its home games at the school's new stadium beginning in 2010.

Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny told the Register-Guard newspaper the deal has been reached with 90-percent certainty. He said some details need to be resolved among the university, the Emeralds and the city of Eugene.

The university is bringing baseball back after dropping it as a varsity sport in 1981. On Wednesday, the university said the athletic department has permission to build a park next to Autzen Stadium.

Groundbreaking could start by summer on the stadium that would cost $12 million to $15 million. Kilkenny said the anticipated rent from the Emeralds allows to the university build a better park than originally envisioned.

"I know they want to play here, and we want them to play here," Kilkenny said.

The Emeralds have been in Eugene since 1955 and have played at Civic Stadium since 1969. Many well-known baseball players — such as Mike Schmidt, Eric Davis, John Rocker and, more recently, Khalil Greene — have spent summers with the Emeralds as they worked toward the big leagues.

The Eugene School District owns Civic Stadium and is determining what to do with it. The district has declared the property as surplus, raising the possibility it could be sold.

Kilkenny said accommodating the Emeralds was one reason the Ducks plan to build a stadium with a capacity of about 5,000. The Emeralds averaged 3,551 fans per game last year but sometimes drew more than 5,000.

The Emeralds, owned by the Elmore Sports Group, have been the Northwest League affiliate of the San Diego Padres since 2001. Their season starts shortly after the college baseball season ends, so there would be no conflict over dates.

Medford native Kevin Towers, general manager of the Padres and a friend of Kilkenny's, played his first professional game at Civic Stadium in 1982. He said he looks forward to sharing the stadium with the Ducks.

"We have loved being in Eugene," Towers told The Oregonian. "The thought of partnering up with the UO in a stadium on campus is exciting."