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Rainiers, Sounders still interested in soccer team for Tacoma … but probably not at Cheney

Post by Don Ruiz / The News Tribune on May 12, 2013 at 10:08 pm with No Comments »
May 12, 2013 10:11 pm

Statue of Ben Cheney watches as soccer fans enter his baseball park Sunday.
Statue of Ben Cheney watches as soccer fans enter his baseball park Sunday.
Management of the Seattle Sounders and Tacoma Rainiers remain interested in bringing a professional soccer team to Tacoma, after the sport made its test run through Cheney Stadium on Sunday.

However, it seems the price of admission will be a soccer-specific stadium seating from 3,000-4,000.

“I think we believed before the game and I think we still believe that Cheney Stadium probably is not the right long-term solution,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said Sunday. “But certainly there was enthusiasm from the fans. We thought it was a good showing, especially give that it was Mother’s Day. We’ll do a little more in-depth analysis of who actually came to the game, but it was certainly encouraging for the idea of having a team in the Tacoma market.”

Rainiers president Aaron Artman acknowledged even his own grounds crew isn’t “in love with the concept” of sharing Cheney with a soccer team. And Sounders players and coaches said the field was a bit narrow and the temporary grass covering the infield dirt didn’t merge seamlessly with the permanent baseball surface.

But with Cheney ruled out, would building a soccer-specific stadium make financial sense? If not, would the Sounders be willing at least to continue sending their Reserves or. U.S. Open Cup teams down for annual visits?

Here’s more of what Hanauer and Artman had to say:

ARTMAN
On the logistics of putting this game together:
We had great weather, so it made it a lot easier. I don’t think our grounds crew is in love with this concept at all, but they did a good job. It looks good. It’s funny, when I first walked in I had to take a while to figure out where the actual infield was out there. So logistically – I haven’t been on the field, I don’t know what the technical side from the Sounders have to say – but it seems to be holding up pretty well, and it’s really cool. It’s neat to see this transformed into a soccer field, and in a way that brings the action as close as it does.

I think, too, Mother’s Day probably cost us an extra thousand people. Bart Wiley said his wife made a comment, ‘Clearly no moms were involving in this planning.” … (Attendance) If it’s not Mother’s Day and we launched it sooner, we think we’d have a few more people in here. … But that’s not bad. That’s not bad for a first time doing it. It’s fun to see it live as well. It’s still cool. It’s one of those things you can always say you were at. People seem to be liking it. You see the guys with the flags and all. It’s fun.

I’m pretty pleased with how it is. I think it’s just fun. I think it’s one of those things where until you get out here no one knows what it will really be like, and it seems like the people who are out here are having fun. We hope they are.

On what happens next: I don’t know. We’re going to talk I’m sure this week. By then I’ll have final numbers on how things went, he’ll have a full review of how his people’s side of it went. I need to experience what it’s really like taking all this out, rebuilding the mound and all that. So I think we’ll wait a couple of days and have as much information as we can and then talk about what the future can hold. … We’re open minded. I think they’re open minded. I think it would be cool for Tacoma to figure out a way to do something, whether it’s here or an ancillary venue that’s built. But today did nothing but validate the fact that it does seem cool to have a soccer game here. That doesn’t mean that it works overall. But if it doesn’t work here, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work somewhere in this footprint or in the city. So I think we’re open-minded and stay optimistic about things.

On whether a new stadium for a third-division team could make financial sense: We haven’t even put together a proforma on that, so I don’t know the answer to that because I don’t know all the costs. We need to know what the player-development side, the technical side, that kind of thing and how it would all do. I think the key would be, could you build a facility that sat three or four thousand people, so it was always rocking in there when it did happen. Cheney Stadium might be a little bit big even if all this other stuff penciled out. But it’s just too tough to tell when you do something on a one-off basis that was obviously launched a month ago. We’ve been really busy with our season. They’ve been really busy with their season – they just played last night. So, to me, it’s cool that we have 2,200 people out here when neither of us really had the time to operate how we’d normally operate something like this. So I don’t know. I’d like to think it could pencil out in that scenario, but we haven’t even run it yet, and I think we’ll use data from this to figure it out.

On if there is no new stadium and no pro team, if it sounds appealing for the Sounders to play an annual game at Cheney: Oh yeah, I think it does. If you have a whole off-season to market it, you pick a great date where there isn’t a conflict, I think it would be worth it to it as a one-off deal every year. I think it would be really cool. I think a lot of that decision-making is up to them. We’re not setting the world on fire here, but we’ve got a pretty decent crowd and people seem to be having fun. And if they’re having fun they’ll take about it and other people will become interested. Soccer’s big down here. We don’t even know what kind of conflicts we ran into with conflicts of tournaments going on down here. I think it would be worth trying at least once a year, right here on this footprint.

HANAUER
Overview of Sunday:
I think we believed before the game and I think we still believe that Cheney Stadium probably is not the right long-term solution. But certainly there was enthusiasm from the fans, we thought it was a good showing, especially give that it was Mother’s Day. We’ll do a little more in-depth analysis of who actually came to the game, but it was certainly encouraging for the idea of having a team in the Tacoma market. I don’t think that’s a big shock. … There’s certainly a pretty good history (of soccer) in the Tacoma market, and a pretty good history of success.

On if 3-4,000 seats sounds right for a new stadium: Yeah, it does.

On if the Sounders would be willing to send a team down to Tacoma for an annual game at Cheney: Again, baring any feedback that I get or anything we discover in the analysis, I think it was a good event. I think Aaron’s dead on that probably Mother’s Day isn’t the best day. I think we could probably do a better job of promoting. I think now that we’ve gotten people used to it and we’re learning some things, we could do better.

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