The Tacoma Rainiers will host the Triple-A All-Star Game later this month at Cheney Stadium, bringing the best players from the Pacific Coast League and the International League to compete in a game nationally televised by the Major League Baseball (MLB) Network.
All eyes will be on the sport’s top talent, and two Tacoma Rainiers players are part of this year’s elite roster: 24-year-old first baseman Daniel Vogelbach and veteran 35-year-old relief pitcher Jean Machi.
The multi-day event begins with a Home Run Derby on Monday, July 10, Media Day on Tuesday, July 11, and an All-Star Luncheon on Wednesday, July 12, before the first pitch is thrown at the All-Star Game later that evening.
It’s also the first opportunity for the Tacoma Rainiers organization to show off “Cheney Stadium 2.0” to a national audience.
It used to be you had to really love the Tacoma Rainiers to attend a baseball game at Cheney Stadium, which was built in 1960 (and in a little more than three months, earning it the “100-Day Wonder” nickname) and was showing its age. Sports fans couldn’t be blamed for looking elsewhere for entertainment.
Tacoma Rainiers president Aaron Artman was hired in 2007 and has overseen the $30 million renovation, which began in late-2010 and early-2011, and elevated the fan experience. Luxury suites were built, the number of concession stands increased, comfortable club seats were added behind home plate, a playground and Wiffle ball field were built for kids and families, and other amenities were included in the project.
Artman, 41, believes the investment has paid off for the franchise, which often is the last stop for baseball players who aspire to break into the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners.
The Tacoma Rainiers have seen attendance increases in seven of nine seasons since 2007, and a nearly 500 percent increase in the number of season ticket holders, according to the team. A franchise attendance record was set in 2011, the first season following stadium renovations, when 378,518 fans bought tickets to see the Tacoma Rainiers compete, according to data compiled by Minor League Baseball and the Pacific Coast League. Cheney Stadium’s official seating capacity is officially pegged at 6,500. What’s more, a rebranding campaign in 2015 breathed new life into the team’s logo, resulting in a spike in souvenir sales.
“(The interest) just keeps kind of growing every year as we grow,” said Artman, during a recent weekend homestand. Many fans in the sold-out crowd easily spotted Artman, who sported his trademark clean-shaven pate, and they weren’t shy about approaching the friendly team president to ask questions or take photographs as he moved through a sold-out crowd and showed off the stadium renovation to a group of local reporters. “The growth we’ve had over the past nine seasons is because the fans — and the market in general — have so graciously returned to Cheney Stadium to support this franchise.”
What did it take to bring the Triple-A All-Star Game to Tacoma?
“(The league tries) to mix the best stadiums with the best operations,” said Artman. “It would have been unfathomable in the old stadium, and we had to take a couple of years to prove ourselves. But (the league) saw things here grow and do well.”
Much like the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place showed off the Puget Sound region to a national audience in 2015, the Tacoma Rainiers front-office hopes the Triple-A All-Star Game will show off Tacoma and the South Sound.
“It’s a great showcase for the players,” added Artman. “But it’s more of a showcase for the fans because the scouts already see these players all the time. For Tacoma itself, there will be about 300 guests from baseball — minor league, some major league, and all the team presidents because they will hold meetings here — staying in town. We are taking the Pacific Coast League golfing at Chambers Bay. A lot of the attendance will be local, but I would guess that 20 percent will be from out of town. We just see it as a great showcase for Tacoma.”
More information about the 2017 Triple-A All-Star Game is available online at tacomarainiers.com.