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Heavy machinery sits beside a large leveled lot next door to Eastern Oregon University’s Community Stadium on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, where work is underway to build a new fieldhouse that will supplement the university’s sporting programs.

LA GRANDE — With upgrades to their stadium and track complete, Eastern Oregon University continues to focus on the construction of the $9 million fieldhouse on the south side of campus.

The previous project cost more than $2.5 million to complete. Work on installing the new turf surface at Community Stadium has been complete for several years, which Tim Seydel, Eastern’s vice president for university advancement, said gave the field an added dimension of versatility.

“We knew for years that, if we could get a turf field, we could use it not just for football for the high school and the college, but we could use it for soccer for the high school and the college, and those are men’s and women’s teams so there’s four more teams you can get on there,” Seydel said.

While the stadium and track upgrades have been, in a word, underutilized this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic making play more unsafe than usual and public health measures restricting high-contact sports, Community Stadium’s use has been sparse in 2020.

But the completion of the upgrades to the stadium free up resources for Eastern’s other projects, namely the big addition to EOU’s sports infrastructure — the fieldhouse.

“The fieldhouse, construction for that is underway right now,” Seydel said. “You can see it over on the south end of campus, and that is going to be really a multipurpose facility.”

The fieldhouse will be a large indoor space containing a partial track and a large turf surface where teams can practice during the months when outdoor practice becomes difficult due to weather. The space also may be used for university events, such as camps, and will house Eastern’s Health and Human Performance and Outdoor Adventure program.

“I’d love to be able to see it even be used for community access, for folks to be able to get some exercise in there,” Seydel said, “but that’s going to be a whole other step. We’re going to get the facility built first.”

Seydel said the funds from building the roughly $9 million facility would be staying in the community. Mike Becker General Contractor Inc. of La Grande is handling the construction of the fieldhouse, he said, and holding events in the facility would bring revenue to the rest of the community.

Seydel cited the increased revenue for local contractors, the potential for increased traffic at local restaurants and hospitality venues and an increase in quality of the campus environment as arguments that the fieldhouse was a good investment.

“There’s not a lot of projects that size in this area, so it’s great we’re able to work with local contractors and subcontractors to do a lot of the work for the fieldhouse,” Seydel said. “And again, a facility that size brings people to the community, helps bring enrollments to the university, which ultimately benefits the community, as well as having just a great university and campus environment.”

The project is in its infancy, and some issues such as occupancy still have to be ironed out before the fieldhouse can be widely used. However, it is certain to permanently improve the landscape of EOU sports in the long term.

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Newest reporter with the La Grande Observer and Union County native. Coverage includes COVID-19, news stories, sports, business and community issues. If you've got a news tip, send it to news@lagrandeobserver.com

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