Just south of Seattle, Washington lies the city of Tacoma. Since 1960, Cheney Stadium has been a member of the Pacific Coast League, however Tacoma has an even stronger connection with the league. Tacoma's first team in the Pacific Coast League dates as far back to 1903.
Outside of current part-owner, and member of the musical group 98 Degrees, Nick Lachey, the first son of the Tacoma Rainiers is Ben Cheney, whom Cheney Stadium is named after. Cheney was the founder of the Cheney Lumber Company which is credited with the standardization of the two by four for wall construction. Cheney was a strong supporter of sports on the Pacific Coast and sponsored many teams, and personally donated $100,000 for the construction of Cheney Stadium.
Although Cheney passed away in 1971 he still has a strong presence at Cheney Stadium, as a life-sized bronze statue of Cheney sits in the front row behind the plate, looking like any other fan enjoying the game. The seat beside Ben is probably one of the most unique in baseball. Obviously the Cheney name continues to don the county-owned stadium, and 40 years later, there seems to be no hint that Ben Cheney will be forgotten in Tacoma.
Currently the Rainiers are the AAA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners , which creates a curious affiliate situation with the two stadiums a mere 40 miles apart. It seems to be working for both parties as they've been together for close to 20 years. It does offer both residents of Tacoma and Seattle to have a genuine interest in the players on the field for Tacoma, and isn't that half the battle?
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For the most part you are going to find the standard ballpark fare available at Cheney Stadium. Prices are a bit on the high side. There are also a few unique items that you would not find in every other ballpark. Fish and chips as well as clam chowder are available to give you some distinctive Pacific Northwest cuisine. The clam chowder is excellent, and on a cool night totally hits the spot. The Rainiers also advertise Baseball's Best Hot Dog at $7.50, which is expensive, but it is advertised as a grilled steak dog. The bottomless popcorn is also a good choice, especially with a family.
Cheney Stadium is you classic Triple-A stadium. It has that community feel to it as well as a clean and friendly atmosphere. There are various seating options, which offer different perspectives to the game. All offer great sightlines so that you can catch all of the action up-close and personal. The leftfield foul territory offers picnic seating on risers so that each table can catch the action. The rightfield foul territory offers grass seating on a nice hill. Behind the plate you will find the seated bronze statue of Ben Cheney, who is just part of the crowd.
Being located right next to a high school, the view beyond the outfield offers little in the way of skyline features, however a new HD video board at Cheney Stadium is a great bonus for fans and the ribbon board above the bullpen beyond rightfield is great for advertising various aspects of the game. The light standards in the outfield are unique and have a look that keeps some the remnants of a stadium that has been around since 1960.
The Rainiers put on some pretty good promotions. They have Craft Beer Nights, and Run the Bases Nights. The date of this review was "Colour Cheney Crimson" where patrons were encouraged to wear crimson in support of the Washington State Cougars. The Washington State fight song was also a staple this night. Children also have the opportunity to run the warning track between innings during the "Raindeer Run." Rainiers mascot Rhubarb and the Raindeer promo girls work hard to keep the crowd into the game.
Cheney Stadium is absolutely located in an urban area. It is right next door to a high school, which shares parking on game days. There is very little surrounding the stadium in the way of bars or restaurants. The best you will be able to get is a McDonald's, Starbucks, or a little pizza or bbq place. If this is a big part of your plan, head for downtown before or after the game. If you are from a different part of the country, I would suggest trying Ivar's. They have great seafood, and are now a Pacific Coast staple!
Attendance for the Rainiers averages below 5,000, which is in the bottom third of the Pacific Coast League. This makes for a stadium that is half full for the most part. The fans who are in attendance are polite and aid in a laid back, relaxed atmosphere. There's lots of space to spread out as well. This may be where the close proximity to the parent club could be an issue. There are definitely fans who are having to choose between the Mariners and Rainiers.
Getting to Cheney Stadium is really easy. It is located very close to Highway 16, and as mentioned above, is located right near Foss High School. Getting onto the school grounds may take a touch of a lineup, but it is not really significant. There is plenty of parking at a nominal price of $5.
Inside, there is ample space and the washroom situation is more than adequate.
Full family entertainment ... that's what you can expect when you see the Rainiers. The tickets can run as low as $11, but with many promotions, there is ample opportunity to save money. We went with the Little Caesar's Family Pack. This offered tickets, hats, post-game pizza, and discounts at local museums. The kicker was that the price of the family pack was lower than the price of 4 tickets! Parking is pretty good, and concessions are on the high side. The end of this equation is a great family experience for not a lot of money.
An extra mark for the great promotions the Rainiers put on.
An extra mark for Ben Cheney, sitting out with the crowd.
The Tacoma Rainiers are not going to blow your mind. A trip to Cheney Stadium will be enjoyable, and you will leave satisfied, ready to consider a return trip. Make sure you get the opportunity to take your picture beside Ben Cheney, and remember that this is what summer is all about!
Follow Dave on Twitter @profan9.
Cheney Stadium, named after Ben Cheney, a local businessman who was responsible for bringing baseball to Tacoma, Washington, recently went through a $30 million renovation.
With the renovations, they managed to make many improvements, while still keeping the stadium in the same, beautiful area.
The old roof was taken down and replaced with a luxury suite/press box structure towering behind home plate, and new concession stands were added, as were team stores and improved team clubhouses. They also cleared out the bleachers on the right field line, and replaced it with a nice grass stretch/family area.
The stadium is still wide open, offering plenty of different seating options, and still offers a terrific family experience.
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