$63 million Casanova Center expansion kept under wraps


Construction has begun on a Casanova Center expansion which will cost an estimated $63.3 million. (Alex McDougall/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Posted by Sam Stites on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 12:00 am.

The beeping of a dump truck’s reversing signal echos off the broad side of the square Casanova Center. A backhoe plows a mound of earth into a flat, drivable surface. Hoffman Construction portable offices line the gate enclosing the work area.

The Casanova Center expansion is under way, and yet no University administrators or athletics officials know much about the project. Upon a request from the Emerald, however, the athletic department’s media services denied a walkthrough and interview for a story on the progress of the project.

Athletic media services said it does not have much of an opportunity to give interviews during the project due to it being headed by an outside group, as the John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes’ project was three years ago.

“The University leases the land, and when they’ve completed it, they give it back,” said Dave Williford, executive assistant athletic director for media services. “Our ability to grant interviews is limited at this point.”

Both Williford and Vice President for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt said they don’t know the cost of the project. According to the permit applications filed with the City of Eugene, the total value of the project came to $63.3 million. The site work alone — rerouting site utilities, demolition of portions of the Casanova Center, pathways and the relocating of the cooling tower — cost $1.75 million. With the expansion planned for adding an extra 130,000 square feet, the cost per square foot is $484.

The outside group involved in the project is Phit LLC, a company owned by Phil Knight that he uses for building development. The University leases the land to Phit, which then facilitates the development of the building, including choosing an architecture firm and construction contractor. When the project is completed, they give the land back to the University as a gift.

“The donor’s preference was to enter into a lease agreement to construct the building,” Moffitt said. “The University asked for and received approval from the State Board to construct the facility in this manner.”

Some on campus are questioning the lack of transparency in this project, especially with an ongoing NCAA investigation and the ASUO pressuring athletics to improve transparency.

“It is the responsibility of the athletic department and the (University) to only accept donations with conditions attached if they are in the best interest of the students,” ASUO President Ben Eckstein said. “We have seen consistently that the interests of students are not a factor in the consideration of whether to accept donations to the athletic department.”

According to Jay Kenton, Oregon University System vice chancellor for finance and administration, there are no other projects in the OUS that use a process like this. Although other state universities boast wealthy alumni, the University is the only school in the state to have received entire buildings completely free, donated by one donor.

“These projects are unique to Oregon,” OUS spokesperson Di Saunders said.

The only sneak peak into this multimillion dollar project has come from Andy McNamara, an assistant director for athletic media services. McNamara has kept track of the daily progress through a quick video blog he posts to Twitter. Until the building actually materializes, this and the digital rendering courtesy of ZGF Architects are the only previews we have into this new building.

  • Mossstreetconspiracy

    You have really oversimplified this story. You left out about the public hearing that was held about this.  You also left out the details about proposed legislation that seeks to bar this Trojan Horse style gifting and contracting arrangements that PHIT arranges. The plans of this building were wide open for analysis before the hearing buy you sporty media types were all busy covering jock junk. Utimately, you reporters and editors enabled uncle Phils’  mischief…again.

    • noconspiracy

       Mischief?? Sounds like  a bitter bieber fan.  The project is being funded by the Knights and will benefit Oregon football. The more successful that Oregon football is the more revenue it brings and that benefits both the athletic department and all of the athletes from non-revenue-producting sports and keeps the atheletic department in the black.  Given that the Knights are paying for the building it seems pretty logical that they would want to have control on how it is built and would try and avoid state red tape. History shows that buildings that the Knights donate and development are of high quality and a benefit to the University.  Where is the mischief?? Looks like a good deal for the UO.

  • Normal Guy

    This quote is asinine:

    “It is the responsibility of the athletic department and the
    (University) to only accept donations with conditions attached if they
    are in the best interest of the students,” ASUO President Ben Eckstein
    said. “We have seen consistently that the interests of
    students are not a factor in the consideration of whether to accept
    donations to the athletic department.”

    ASUO is pissed about student ticketing and is going to make a stink about everything until they feel their problem is resolved.

  • well…
    • Me

      is it LEED certified?

  • Michael

    The architects are ZGF Architects, a Portland headquartered firm. They designed the Jaqua Center and are a highly regarded design firm. That indicates the quality and design excellence that should be anticipated.

    Duck Territory Oregon 247.com has an information piece that describes the project. Rendering and a project description are at:

    The project size, design, statistics, parking and other elements can all be found on line by googling Casanova Center Expansion. Addition information is at http://www.oregongridiron.com/facilities_pages/cas_expansion.html

    The comment regarding transparency lack substance when it is based on the suggestion that projects must be for the good of the students. I am sure there are many federal and private grants to UO researchers that have no connection to students and in many cases may occur off site. The same can be said for building projects in the research park that are for private use. 

    It is absurd to suggest that every project by this donor must be qualified and judged for “student benefit” Let’s not forget that the donor has given the University of Oregon a library expansion, the law school building and numerous teaching chairs for the benefit of students. 


    • Student

      How do you justify building a huge football and sports complex during an economic downturn while state funding is at the lowest it has ever been and students are bearing the largest part of the burden? Yes Knight has done some great things for this school, but I believe his donations are hugely motivated by business, with a smidgen of actual fervency to the school. Don’t forget he also funds Stanford athletics….

  • QuestionableReporting

    Things that could have helped this story not seem like so much of a  conspiracy theory…

    - An interview attempt with the architect
    - An explanation for how much of the money came from Phit and how much from other athletic department funds.
    - A comparison for how much other athletic department buildings around the country at similar schools cost.
    - A discussion of the age of the Casanova Center, why it was built, and why the University had decided it needed a new facility.  

    This is barely a news story.

  • Tgdurnal

    The building is being donated by Phil Knight, why would you not want to accept this gift? Phil Knight has been very generous and has asked very little in return, as an Alum I am thrilled by his generosity. People need to stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.

    • Alumni should wise up

      I am tired of hearing about alumni who are “thrilled” or “excited” about the investment in the athletics department, when in reality they have little to no understanding of what those investments mean.

      I’m a student now. I am with 22,000 others who are actually living through the athletics boom. We’re not just watching it on tv, learning about it online, or witnessing it during day tours.

      What alumni don’t see are the younger versions of themselves being exploited for money in a constant marketing campaign to buy and wear Nike.

      They don’t see a university administration with its hands completely tied. Like everyone says, who wouldn’t accept another donation? Maybe it does nothing to help the school itself, which is mired in a state deficit and cannot afford to compete with other AAU institutions…but it’s a donation, and it would be career suicide not to feel privileged (even a little indebted?) to receive it.

      They don’t see the athletics department’s lack of transparency on anything not dealing with a game preview or recap, and so they don’t feel disrespected one bit.

      Most importantly though, alumni don’t see good journalism for what it’s worth, even when it comes from their old campus paper. From what I can tell, the ODE is the first paper to actually publish the estimated cost of this project. The Oregonian and the RG haven’t said a thing about it, and I imagine this journalist had to go through a lot of work to get it.

      Before alumni dismiss UO students as naive or just generally ungracious, maybe they should first try reacquainting themselves with their alma mater and the issues not being covered by SportsCenter.

      • Stop Occupying

        1. How have you been exploited?
        2. The athletic success has translated directly to the academic side. After the ducks went to the rose bowl this year applications rose 20%! The average application increase when a team goes to the national championship in football is 15%. If you aren’t naive like you claim, then I don’t need to explain the benefits of increased applications
        3. Due to oregons enormous athletic success resulting for very generous donors it has become one of only two self sustaining athletic departments in America. This means that all university funding goes to the university.
        4. Phil knight is currently lobbying for a private board of directors. If you are unaware of this issue please immediately stop posting on all articles and stop speaking . This will be the greatest thing to ever happen to academics in the state of Oregon.
        5. When someone gives you a gift you say thank you

        • JayZ

          Explain to me again how having more students here is a good thing. Freshmen are already being forced to go off campus due to lack of housing and it’s not like the extra tuition dollars are going to pay for better professors. This University is spending more time trying to make money than fulfilling their educational obligation to the 24,000 students already here.

          Keep the beer-swilling, sports-obsessed students who are here for a good time rather than an education off my campus and focus on attracting students with the promise of the one thing we should all be serious about: A quality education.

          • You’re wrong

            Phil Knight, Tim Boyle (owner of Columbia) and pat Kilkenny are all sports fanatics. I think they are doing pretty well. Also, they are using the money to raise teachers salarys. Remember how your president got fired this year. Why don’t you worry about yourself and let the people who know what they’re doing run the university. And more applications does improve the university. More competition means higher quality students and professors. Also, when the sports teams do well people who would otherwise never hear of your university will no be familiar with it and that helps you get a job. Gonzaga is a prefect example of this. Please leave debating to people who know what they’re talking about. If you bring your attitude into interviews and the business world you will end up just like the occupiers.

        • Alumni should wise up

          The athletics department is not self-sustaining. Please stop perpetuating erroneous information.

          For starters, the athletics department recently borrowed $200 million in taxpayer money to build the Knight arena.

          To help you with impartiality (as I can tell you need it), imagine I borrowed $2,000 from my sister. Would you call me self-sustaining?

          Nothing changes here, only that I would probably invest in something at least slightly reasonable, whereas the AD decided to invest in a basketball court on the premise that the UO will have a successful basketball team for the next 30 years straight.

          And then there’s the matter of the $2.45 million in operating costs at the Jaqua Center that are paid by the university.

          “This means that all university funding goes to the university.” Wrong. $2.45 million does not, and neither does the money spent in countless transactions between the university and its own athletics department. The department is asking for more and more each year in its multi-million dollar contract with the ASUO…that’s our student government, in case you don’t know.

          You are correct regarding the “Flutie effect.” The university enjoys 20 percent more students than usual. 20 percent more students, most of whom would rather see their money go to more investment in athletics than in their major’s department (if they can ever pick one.)

          At the end of the day, the investment in athletics represents a sick portrayal of values, both in the student body and its donors. Football is money-making entertainment, but even if it raked in as much as basketball, most would still rather see us with the best football program in the nation than the best economics or liberal arts program.

          Lastly, you are naive if you don’t see how students are being exploited. Thanks to Knight’s “generosity,” most all Duck fans are Nike loyals for life. And they’re all too happy to buy each new piece of memorabilia.

          In crazy fanatic’s terms: Phil Knight isn’t being generous. He’s being a businessman.

        • Student 12

           You say “private board of directors” like this school is a business…. It would be an independent governing board made up of administrators/faculty and other qualified academic leaders, not some wall street executives who care only about money. The board is for the benefit of the students because state funding is so low and we need a new budget model that is unique to our needs. Oh, and this is not a gift…. How much do you think students (non-athlete students) are going to be allowed to use this new building? Not at all unless we want to go pay to see our own sports museum….

  • lamentablepause

    There may be other aspects of control of the project that are germane, but isn’t this arrangement mostly so that Knight can design, build and donate this building without having to pay the types of union wages that would be required by law if this building were constructed under the aegis of the university?

    • Jfogg

      Thats a bad thing?  Union wages are artificial and only hurt our economy.  Unions are the reason why American jobs continue to go overseas.  They have effectively made much of the American working force uncompetitive in the global market

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/RSXVZRCPTUNRQPLDHBM4RZH62I Anthony

        Jfogg gets it, unlike the majority at UO. You don’t know how bad a Union Job is until you have worked within in one, but I will let others who feel that union wages are a must find that out for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking as a Oregon Ducks football fan for more than 50 years, I’m happy Phil Knight continues to give generously to a school he believe so much in. These new facilities will provide a great environment to the student athlete for years to come. 

    Go Ducks!

  • Anonymous

    You must be one of the 3 students that showed  up to protest  Jaqua when it was opened. 

    Phil Knight’s generosity has put Oregon on the map.  It’s gone from a subpar Pac 10 athletic department to a top contender out of 3000 D-1 schools. 

    But don’t stop there. The school has grown student census, increased donations coming in and the academic quality has gone up dramatically.  Everyone in the state of Oregon and alumni win when you have such a generous donor. 

    Why don’t you students grow up and see how the world works. Phil Knight is giving back to the school that’s helped create his company. 

    You must have been little children when the last batch of students protested Nike’s labor practices. Mr. Knight stopped donating and everyone suffered.  

    It’s classic NYTimes journalism when you write about how unfair the normal economic process is. That’s what got the US into the current situation we are in.  However Mr. Knight is smart enough to work the system for the common good. 

    You should be proud to be a Oregon Duck and the shining example that Phil Knight displays in his philanthropy.

  • Brian Libby

    The same thing will be happening to Autzen itself in a few years. The new Cas Center expansion is just the appetizer before the main course.

  • George

    For a University that has built it’s image over being environmental and liberal, they sure don’t seem to care who Phil Knight gets his money to donate all these brand new facilities. Also, by completely scamming the state of Oregon and don’t forget Phil Knight’s great child laborers who make all things Nike for 5 cents a day. The UofO is just bending over for Phil Knight so their athletics can try and compete. Time for the UofO admin to step up and put education first. Why not take Phil Knights generous offers and instead of putting them towards athletics, put them towards education or how about a way to decrease tuition?

    • You’ve been served George


      Please stop speaking. Phil has put 3 billion into a trust fund for Oregon and will don’t a billion to help them getting a private board of directors. Owned………

      • Oregon Student

         Not owned…. George has a point, and you just sound ignorant. Do you actually know anything that’s going on campus? Probably not so why don’t you leave the discussion to people who this actually affects

  • quaq

    All we need now is an indoor tropical beach simulator and we’ll be unstoppable.

  • UOmom

    Don’t you just love public dialog? It is so great to see students and alumni speaking together about these important conversations. Maybe the alumni should take a hint from the students who are actually on campus and being affected by the athletic cronies! But at least the ODE is writing a real story for once!

  • Davey777

    Oh you young, inexperienced students ( I used to be one too). Thank you Phil. Knight for all that you have done for the university, including the Knight Library, helping the school pay for professors, not to mention all the donations to hospitals for cancer care and research. The list goes on and on. These students will have a different prospective after they get some life experience out in the real world.