This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
Tacoma Rainiers fans might have been startled to learn that the team apparently is on the market. But once they get over the shock, they should cheer the news that a local group of investors is making a major play to buy the Triple-A club, the farm team for the Seattle Mariners.
How local is the group? It’s the Baseball Club of Tacoma; it would be hard to get more local than that. It’s led by Mikal Thomsen, a Tacoma native and Curtis High School graduate who co-founded a Bellevue-based investment company and serves on the Museum of Glass board.
Those kinds of local ties speak volumes. And it’s why Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland is absolutely correct in saying that the local group’s purchase of the Rainiers is “the best thing that could happen to the team.”
Not that the current owners have been bad; quite the opposite. SDL Baseball Partners ruffled some feathers at first, which is not unexpected whenever there’s change. But the Dallas-based partners also increased attendance since buying the Rainiers four years ago, promised not to move the team and made improvements to Cheney Stadium (prior to the city’s $26.5 million renovation now under way).
The team won the Pacific Coast League championship last year, so the partners were obviously doing something right – even though fans could be excused for wishing they had found a way to actually play some championship games at Cheney.
Although SDL Baseball Partners led by Bob and Kirby Schlegel have been good owners, they aren’t local, which is what Rainiers fans were hoping for back when previous owner George Foster was trying to sell the team.
Tacoma loves its team, and fans want owners who are equally devoted – who know what it’s like to wish you’d brought an extra blanket to that April game or who have complained about the length of the concession stand line. As good as the SDL Baseball Partners were, their investment was more financial than emotional.
If the proposed purchase goes through, the Baseball Club of Tacoma would be sitting pretty – with a brand new stadium and grateful fans. And the outgoing owners would deserve thanks for doing right by the team and the community.