A Place and Space to Play
● By Sandy Kauten
A Place and Space to Play: THE NEED IS REAL
One Saturday in March of 2015 I walked into the Lane Events Center gym and looked up. Rain was leaking through the roof onto the old wooden courts purchased years ago by the county from colleges around the country.
As the Executive Director of EmeraldKIDSPORTS (KS) I had to make a decision that I knew would disappoint hundreds of kids, but nonetheless I had to cancel the series of KS basketball games to be played that day.
In a city with collegiate sports facilities that are a point of community pride, indoor youth basketball games are being rained out. How did we get here?
The 14,000 children who play in KS every year, along with many other youth and adult sports organizations, face a shortage of indoor facilities and outdoor recreational fields.
The pickings are slim in the Eugene area for functional and accessible gyms and those that are available are outdated, small, and not appropriately equipped. KS has over 1,300 volunteer coaches who give time, energy, and important mentorship to thousands of children.
Yet the space and place for them to do so is limited and as a result, the most competitive sport in town has become that of volunteer coaches trying to schedule gym time for their teams to practice and play.
More than ever, a space and place is needed for our kids and community to play and be active. Elementary and middle schools in Eugene struggle to provide consistent, regular, and age appropriate physical education for developing children.
This in turn is compounded by the 21st century sedentary lifestyle that has inflicted unsustainable costs and consequences for health care services. Lane County’s obesity rates are on the rise. More than 13.2 percent of our high school students enter their senior year obese. Tragically, the trend continues. More than 27 percent of adults in Lane County are obese. Nearly $1.6 billion is the annual medical costs paid by the state of Oregon for obesity-related chronic diseases.
We are not talking about training elite athletes. We’re talking about basic physical skills and habits everyone should learn by the time they are 11 or 12. Without sufficient functional, available space to play, most kids miss out on what is truly the most cost effective and practical form of health care: physical activity.
The plans for Civic Park include a 40,000 SQ FT KS Field House that will house four full-sized middle school basketball courts that can be converted into six to eight volleyball courts, pickle ball courts. A regulation turf field will provide accessible, year-round outdoor space for all sports that can be played on a rectangular field.
Civic Park business plans also include partnering with Lane United Football Club (LUFC) who, as an anchor tenant of Civic Park, would bring an exciting and entertaining brand of Premier Development League soccer to the heart of Eugene.
The Field House and Turf Field are not ‘nice to have amenities,’ but rather essential components for a community that seeks to raise healthy kids that then grow into healthy, active adults.
The KS Field House will not replace the KS Core program. The KS Core Program, as it has for 65 years, will continue to provide children, Kinder through 8th grade, with an opportunity to play at their neighborhood school, with their classmates, and neighborhood friends. Our mission remains the same—“All kids play.” No child is turned away because of ability to play or pay.
Civic Park will provide a place and a space for locally-run tournaments, the opportunity to revitalize and expand community leagues, enhance children’s education through activity, sport, and social development academies, as well as to provide schools that currently cannot serve their populations, with additional practice and play times.
As importantly, the KS Field House will offer the community with the opportunity to participate in age appropriate physical activity and physical literacy programs tailored to meet the needs of pre-school, elementary, middle school, and high school students.
A sampling of these activities include: Pre-school Tot Tumbling, Soccer, Basketball, and Mini Movers (fundamental movement & motor skill development); K – 5 Physical Literacy Classes (agility, balance, coordination development); and middle school basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer, and volleyball development academies.
While the focus of Civic Park is primarily on kids, the site will also play home to adult recreation leagues offering basketball, pickle ball, volleyball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, and indoor/outdoor futsal. Elders will discover the “senior circuit” that will include walking, balance, strength, and social activities.
Civic Park is about building a healthy community. The 2014 Aspen Institute Project Play's Report states," if we are going to ensure that all kids have the chance to grow up fit and strong we must among other efforts, eliminate the barriers to sport participation…and one of the most formidable of barriers, is that of a lack of neighborhood recreation spaces...”(http://youthreport.projectplay.us)
Civic Park has been the site of sporting events and recreation for nearly 80 years. Creating a new facility on this historic site is an ambitious, bold, and important project for the continued health and welfare of our community. Please see www.eugenecivicalliance.org for more information about the Civic Park “Play On” project.
Beverly holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Performance from the University of Oregon (1988) and her level 4/5 National Coaching Certificate from the National Institute of Coaching in Victoria, British Columbia. She helped write the draft for Canada Basketball’s Long Term Athlete Development Plan (LTAD) and has done skill and coaching clinics in Canada, Italy, Jordan, and the US.
Beverly coached the Oregon Women's Basketball Team from 2001 to 2009 and the Canadian National Basketball Team from 1997 through to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
She was elected to the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (2003), the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame (2003), the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2004), and the University of Oregon Hall of Fame (1992)
Beverly is the Executive Director Of Emerald KIDSPORTS (2009 - Current)