Fans enjoy Cheney Stadium renovation
// Updated stadium, new ownership brings renewed interest from fans
Around 6,000 eager fans showed up at Cheney Stadium April 2 to celebrate the completion of the offseason renovations to the stadium at the Tacoma Rainiers pre-season party.
The event gave fans a first-hand look at all of the changes, headlined by a new grand entrance, luxury suites and seating, the 4,000-square-foot Summit Club and new clubhouses.
“I think it’ll be a good place to have baseball games,” said Pat Hughes, a 20-year Rainiers fan, as he observed the new surroundings from the stands. “The amount of people that showed up, it shows there are a lot of people that are interested.”
As fans roamed around the ballpark, some took advantage of the opportunity to purchase season tickets.
“Last year I had a 20-game plan,” said Vicky Schauer as she sat in her newly-purchased season ticket seats. “I just had so much fun, every time I knew there was a game I wanted to be there if I didn’t have a ticket.”
Other fans simply came to the event to see what changed, and to have a free hot dog. After seeing the new stadium, Nancy McClellan of Tacoma sat and pondered purchasing new tickets.
“I’ve got my credit card ready,” she said. “I’ve never done that before. I’m still thinking really hard.”
According to Rainiers President and new part-owner Aaron Artman, the early feedback on the project has been favorable for the Rainiers.
“All our season ticket numbers and group numbers are up quite a bit, there is more interest in the new facility,” Artman said. “I think the best is yet to come in that regard.”
Artman believes that the best part of the renovation is the stadium’s new entrance and concourse, which boasts a five-story façade, a light standard from the original Seals Stadium and a spacious atrium upon entry.
“For 51 years, you never felt you were at a park until you were in the seating bowl,” Artman said. “Now,” he added, “you feel from the second you get out of your car that you get to do something special.”
In addition to checking out the amenities, fans enjoyed having the chance to see the stadium from new angles during the party.
“It’s cool to be able to experience where the players are,” said Daniel Christoe, 20, as he sat in the Rainiers dugout, which is now located on the third-base side. After seeing all of the changes, Christoe concluded, “it’s definitely a family-oriented ballpark.”
One of the more family-oriented changes of the stadium is the addition of the sloped grass berm along the right-field line, where fans can enjoy the game with $7 general admission tickets.
“There’s only about 100 tickets left for opening night,” said Artman, referring to the already-popular grass berm seats. “You get to kind of sprawl out, bring a blanket in or a towel and sit down. That’s a really nice area.”
Artman added that luxury suites are filling up quickly as well, with many private groups and businesses booking them up well in advance for the season.
The Summit Club, located on the top level behind home plate, will provide season-ticket holders a fine-dining opportunity during the game, with different reservation times available.
While there was much talk about how the roof on the new structure is now much shorter, some fans didn’t seem to mind as they toured the facility.
“I think it really opens the place up and it looks really good,” said Brian Viafore, a former Rainers batboy at the event with his son. “The ownership group has done a great job with the new stadium.”
The new ownership group is led by Mikal Thomsen, a Curtis High School grad and University Place native. Thomsen signed a letter of intent to purchase the team in December, and the new ownership, made up of 15 local partners, was officially announced on April 4.
As Thomsen recalled old memories in Cheney Stadium, he added, “I hope 50 years from now we’ll have kids who will be old men then, say they came out in the first few months of the new Cheney Stadium.”
And while the renovation has just been completed, Artman is already appreciative of the public support during and after the project.
“It’s something that everyone gets to look back on and remember, and thousands of people contributed to it.”
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