To motorists zipping by on Southwest Barbur Boulevard, Duniway Park looks like an inviting oasis, its running track surrounded by mature firs, cedars and lilacs.
To city officials, neighbors and two of the world's biggest athletic apparel companies, Nike and Under Armour, the park named for famed Oregon suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway is the site of a political tug of war.
Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced in July that Baltimore-based Under Armour would donate about $2.75 million to upgrade the park. Under Armour has leased a nearby building, the old Metro Family YMCA, for its new Portland headquarters.
That ticked off Nike, which donated the construction of a track at Duniway Park built with recycled sneaker soles in 1995. Oregon's shoe giant also inked a deal in 1996 to display its iconic swoosh on the park's electronic clock. Under Armour's new agreement erases the swoosh.
That's just the beginning of the fights in Duniway Park. Under Armour's donation has set off a chain reaction of miffed parties—scrapping over branding, parking and whether the park should be a sports complex or a community space.
Here's who wants to control Duniway Park.
The Baltimore company is one of Nike's emerging rivals in the international sportswear market—and its donation challenges Nike on its home turf. City plans for how to use Under Armour's gift include a wider track, lighting, an artificial turf field and perhaps a plaza.
Between July and September, Nike lobbyists called, emailed or met personally with city officials 38 times to talk about what's listed ambiguously on city lobbying reports as "Portland parks partnerships." In a July 29 email to Fritz, who oversees Portland Parks and Recreation, company officials complained that they hadn't been given a shot at presenting a proposal for Duniway to compete with Under Armour's. "Given our recent discussions about projects," says Nike spokesman Greg Rossiter, "we were disappointed we were not provided an opportunity." Fritz denied a request by Mayor Charlie Hales for a City Council vote on Under Armour's proposal. (Hales accepted $2,000 in campaign contributions from Nike after winning office in 2012; Fritz doesn't take any corporate money.) "Allowing Under Armour to do the donation as they had been asking to all along was the right thing to do," Fritz told WW in September.
The 77-year-old apparel company founded in Portland was also displeased that City Hall had hatched a deal with Under Armour behind closed doors—and without notice to existing donors such as Columbia.
The city's plan to upgrade Duniway with Under Armour's money also includes a proposal to expand parking, increasing the number of spaces from 11 to around 30. Neighbors, including the South Portland Neighborhood Association, the Homestead Neighborhood Association, and residents of the Terwilliger Plaza retirement community, object, saying the park is well-served by public transit. "This seems to be a big step toward fundamentally changing what kind of park it is," says Jim Gardner, land-use chairman of the South Portland Neighborhood Association. "This seems to be a move toward making it a professional venue." Meanwhile, neighbors in Lents, where Under Armour plans a second $2.75 million donation, are thrilled. "We're finally getting some upgrades," says Jesse Cornett, chairman of the Lents Neighborhood Association.
Oregon Health and Science University:
The state's largest teaching hospital has expressed alarm that one of the Duniway Park proposals could cause traffic jams at the base of Pill Hill.
Jody Stahancyk, Portland divorce attorney:
The law offices of Stahancyk, Kent and Hook sit catty-corner from the park. When a track event took place at the park in August without any notification to neighbors, Stahancyk says, she complained she missed an opportunity to donate parking to local kids for a fundraiser. She says Fritz dismissed her concern. "I was trying to solve problems and be positive, and I was met with, 'You can't do that,'" she says. Now Stanhancyk is contemplating a run against Fritz in 2016, calling her conversation with the two-term commissioner "the last drop in the cup."
At least one group of Portlanders is happy. The city currently has only six synthetic soccer fields regularly open to the public. Rain doesn't stop play on artificial turf, meaning the fields are good to go year-round. "There's huge demand," says Jeff Enquist, CEO of Portland City United Soccer Club. "Not just for soccer, but for lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee." He adds: "This increases the opportunity for recreation for everybody for a much longer time."