A spectacular fire destroyed Eugene's historic Civic Stadium yesterday and prompted the temporary evacuation of a two-block area, the Oregon city's fire chief says. Fire crews found flames shooting twice the height of the structure when they were called to the stadium at about 5:30pm, a police spokesman says. Smoke was visible throughout the city, which is about 100 miles south of Portland. The stadium's dry, seasoned lumber caused the blaze to spread quickly, the fire chief said after the blaze was controlled by about 7pm. He said the cause is under investigation and nobody was hurt.
The stadium was approved by voters in 1938 during the Great Depression and opened that same year. The Eugene Emeralds, a minor league team, had been a longtime tenant, but it vacated in 2009. A nonprofit group of community activists bought it in April, with plans to build a soccer field and a park on the property. "When I first heard, I was desperately hoping that something could be saved of the stadium," the co-founder of the Eugene Civic Alliance tells the Register-Guard. "It's a magnificent structure, but it was wood, and that was one of the parts of it that was really beautiful. But that wood ... that's an impermanent structure." The baseball coach at a nearby high school says he called 911 when he spotted a small fire in the press box, "and by the time I got off the phone with the operator, the whole stadium was on fire."