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Mikal Thomsen could not stop smiling Monday night.
“It looks better than ever right now,” he said, sitting in the third base dugout at Cheney Stadium, gazing out at the just desserts of a seven-year effort. “This is kind of frosting on the cake.”
Thomsen is the owner of the Tacoma Rainiers, the AAA ball club of the Seattle Mariners. A University Place native and WSU grad, Thomsen bought the club in 2011, shortly after a city-led $30 million dollar renovation.
Understandably, business boomed at the ballpark on South Tyler helped Thomsen’s group re-invest in more changes at Cheney.
The Rainiers added a new left field deck, whiffle ball field, playground, and ‘R’ Bar high above the third base line. It was the extra ‘oomph’ that impressed his fellow minor league owners and led to Tacoma getting the AAA-All Star game this week.
“We've had baseball at Cheney Stadium since 1960 we've never had an All-Star game, and this is a pretty cool thing,” said Thomsen, as the stadium prepared for the home run derby on Monday. “I was talking to my old best friend from Curtis High School today, and he said this was one of the four biggest things that have happened to Pierce County.”
Thomsen said his team has focused on the off-the-field product since taking over. That’s meant significant changes in food, drink, and merchandise options, which he said is under his control, “My friend John Stanton - owns the Seattle Mariners, and he pays all the salaries for our players,” he said with a chuckle.
It’s a success story that Thomsen says he’d like to continue outside the ballpark.
For years, dating back to 1960, Cheney has been surrounded by parking lots. Recently, the Rainiers signed a deal with the Seattle Sounders, to explore a new soccer-specific stadium adjacent to Cheney.
The Sounders would like to move their lower-tier team, called S2, to Tacoma. The Rainiers are looking at three different spots, although nothing is nailed down. “If we can find a good place to play, with any luck we’ll turn this into a Stadium District," said Thomsen.
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