Jane Sanders Stadium (all photos by me unless otherwise noted)
The PAC-12 Conference’s reigning softball champion resides at the University of Oregon, and now so too does the team’s sparkling new home. Currently ranked third in the national polls, the women of the Ducks softball team finally enjoy quarters that befit their considerable prowess: Jane Sanders Stadium is yet another in the remarkable string of state-of-the-art athletics facilities for the university. “The Jane” provides the high-flying and hard-hitting Ducks with a home-field advantage that is second to none.
I enjoyed the privilege of a behind-the-scenes look at the new stadium this past Friday. I came away impressed and happy the team has everything it needs to sustain its recent success for many years to come.
A new softball venue was long overdue. No one doubted the need to replace Howe Field. The old stadium was lacking in even the most basic of amenities, such as adequate restroom facilities or unobstructed sightlines. The players’ locker room was awkwardly located in the basement of neighboring McArthur Court. Practices during inclement weather took place at the Moshofsky Center, meaning players wasted considerable time in transit to and from Howe Field. Despite its storied history, spectators, coaches, players, and prospective recruits alike regarded the timeworn ballpark as a liability for the program.
Alumnus Robert Sanders (UO 1951) donated $16 million toward the $17.2 million construction in memory of his late wife, Jane (UO 1950). His gift is a remarkable legacy, without which the new stadium could not have been realized.
The SRG Partnership designed Jane Sanders Stadium and contractor Howard S. Wright oversaw construction of the fast-tracked project. SRG started design work during the fall of 2014, and Howard S. Wright broke ground on June 4, 2015 following the conclusion of the 2015 softball season. Only nine short months later, Oregon ace Cheridan Hawkins hurled the first official pitch at The Jane on March 24.
I like that the new stadium is basically located where historic Howe Field once was. Keeping the facility on campus was the right move. The Jane nestles cozily into its setting while at the same time asserting its presence. A softball field is surprisingly compact, so the overall impression inside the stadium is one of intimacy and closeness to the action. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The permanent grandstand includes 1,500 seats, of which about 500 are covered. 1,000 temporary bleacher seats are currently set up beyond the outfield fence, providing a total capacity of 2,500 spectators. The field consists of an artificial turf outfield and a dirt infield. The entire complex includes spectator support amenities, a Team Building (containing lockers, a team lounge, team meeting/video room, training room, equipment room, and coaches’ offices), and a Player Development Area (used for indoor practices, warmup, conditioning, and high-level training). The players and coaches now have everything they need to perform at their highest levels.
Underside of the roof. The wood panels take the shape of triangles and the geometry of home plate.
View of the field from the concourse along the 3rd base line.
The scoreboard, which places an Oregon "O" logo before a "Jane Sanders Stadium" sign, is a nod to Jane Sanders’ legal first name, Olive.
Our tour guide telling us about the construction and characteristics of the field.
Inside the Ducks' dugout.
The Player Development Area, used for indoor practices and training.
The Equipment Storage room.
Donor recognition wall in the lobby of the Team Building.
Perhaps the design’s most assertive feature is the V-shaped roof that covers a portion of the seats behind home plate. Destined to become iconic, my first take upon seeing renderings was that its profile resembled that of the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber. Like the Hatfield-Dowlin Football Complex before it, the mostly black color scheme extends the current UO penchant for a darkly inscrutable, cool, and audacious aesthetic.
Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber (photo credit: U.S. Air Force)
I spoke with SRG principal and design team leader Jeff Yrazabal a few months ago about how demanding the job’s tight timeline was. Despite its hurried pace, Jeff expressed confidence in his team’s ability to get it done right. His trust in his colleagues was certainly not misplaced, as the finished product is a testament to their hard work and talent.
The Jane does have its detractors: Despite eagerly looking forward to attending her first game there, my wife doesn’t like the new building’s cloak of black paint. In her opinion it’s “too dark” and consequently fails to fit in with its neighbors. I think The Jane fits in just fine, and will even more so if and when a sensitive architect plans the new academic buildings destined to occupy the site along University Avenue immediately to the west of the stadium’s new entrance plaza.
* * * * * *
I owe my opportunity to tour The Jane to Matt Scheibe, principal with Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning, who worked on the project. Matt invited me and Jamin AAsum of Skylab Architecture to join him on the guided tour of Jane Sanders Stadium. The three of us comprise the core design team for the Eugene Civic Park project, so the opportunity to visit and learn about The Jane was one we couldn't pass up. Look for a future blog post about our work on Civic Park, for which we just wrapped up the Conceptual Design phase.