- Lloyd Brown
Cheney Stadium – Tacoma Rainiers
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Cheney Stadium 2502 S Tyler St Tacoma, WA 98405
Year Opened: 1960
The Place to See a Homer in Tacoma
The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, a position they have held since 1995. It has the distinction of being the closest AAA affiliate to its MLB team, as it is based just 36 miles from Safeco Field. The Rainiers have been members of the Pacific Coast League since 1960.
The home field for the Rainiers is Cheney Stadium, which was built in 1960. It was originally known as the “100-Day Wonder,” as it was constructed in less than four months in order to be awarded a minor league affiliation with the San Francisco Giants. Leading this effort was Tacoma businessman Ben Cheney, who was honored for this achievement by having his name placed on the stadium, and is also acknowledged through a statue of his likeness being placed in the bleachers, where it still resides today.
A number of baseball’s greatest have played at Cheney in some point in its 55 years of existence. These players include Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Matty and Jesus Alou, Dave Henderson, Jose Canseco and Bobby Ayala. Mariner players who started their way to “The Show” at Cheney include Jay Buhner, Ken Griffey, Jr, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez and Tim Belcher.
Cheney Stadium has come a long way since those 100 days, as it has undergone renovations in 1992, 1998, 1999 and 2011. The most recent renovation cost more than $30 million and included new grandstands, a new roof, a greatly improved concourse area and upgrades to the concession area, along with the replacement of all 6,500 stadium seats and the addition of 16 luxury suites with an attached restaurant.
Food & Beverage 4
The Rainiers are very proud of their Pacific Northwest heritage, and this is especially true in their food and beverage selection. Ivar’s Sports Group holds the contract for managing all food-related concessions, which is not surprising, as Ivar’s Seafood on the waterfront in Seattle is one of the area’s longest running restaurants.
Among the regional specialties you can enjoy at Cheney Stadium are fish and chips ($8.50), crab cakes ($8.50), clam chowder ($8.00) and grilled salmon ($8) These foods will be served up at restaurants named the Cascade Grill, the Narrows Catch and Olympic Grill which salute nearby mountain ranges and water bodies. Cheney Stadium obviously also offers the typical baseball fare, such as hot dogs ($4.50), nachos ($6), pretzels ($5) hamburgers ($8.50) and popcorn ($5). Hint: if you are not into seafood, try out The Red Hot booth. Their specialty is the one-third pound brat, known as the “Wurst Sausage in Baseball” ($8.25).
On the beverage side of things, let’s start out with the obvious. There are numerous coffee vendors serving mochas. lattes, and chais (prices range from $4-$7) throughout the stadium. Cheney Stadium features Pepsi products ($4-$6) and bottled water ($4.50). Beers on tap include Rainier (of course!), Red Hook, Budweiser and Bud Light, Long Ball Lager and Fat Tire, Laurelwood Stout, Seven Seas IPA and Leinenkugel’s Grapefruit Shandy. Since you are only 100 miles from Canada, Labatt Blue is also available.
During the most recent renovations at Cheney Stadium, it was decided to go from the original utilitarian design and make attending a game a unique experience. It all begins outside the stadium, where you will notice the truly Pacific Northwestern vibe of the facility. The entry areas are constructed of wood, and feature some distinctly Native American public art. Once inside, you will be amazed with the wide variety of seating options. These options include bleacher seating, boxes, top-of-the-line club seats, dugout-level seats that are absolutely at field level, grass berms and a third baseline featuring a tier of party patios complete with umbrellas.
For group seating, there are numerous party decks, including the R-Yard and the Coors Light Landing atop the left field wall (Hint: this area offers the best view of Mt. Rainier “when it is out,” i.e., a clear day with no clouds. It is a stunning site and the inspiration for the naming of the team.) One last unique viewing area is the Bullpen Lounge. It is underneath the Coors Landing and right next to the bullpen. The Lounge features clear glass walls that look directly into left field for game watching, or into the bullpen to see who is warning up.
On-field amenities include a terrific new scoreboard/message board with crystal-clear graphics. There is no need in worrying about a home run ball hitting it. It is located in dead center field, and would require a 425-foot blast to be a home run. As a result, there is a lot of field to cover for both the home team and the opposition.
The unique architecture, the many seating options and the lovely setting all work together to make watching a game at Cheney Stadium an experience to remember.
Cheney Stadium is located on the west side of Tacoma, just north of Highway 16. Highway 16 is a controlled-access highway, and the area between Highway 16 and the stadium is very industrial, so there are no stores or restaurants within walking distance of the stadium. A majority of the restaurant, hotel and shopping facilities will be found on the south side of Highway 16 or along South Union Boulevard, both of which are within two miles of the stadium. The closest hotels to the stadium are the Holiday Inn Express, the Courtyard Marriott Downtown Tacoma and the Best Western Downtown Tacoma. If you are visiting the Pacific Northwest for the first time I suggest you try out the Silver Cloud Inn Waterfront, which provides stunning views of the end of the Puget Sound and the Narrows area.
There are several restaurants located within two miles of Cheney Stadium that are highly recommended by Rainier fans and visitors alike. These include the Melon Seed Deli, The Red Hot, and — despite its name — Dirty Oscar’s Annex. As you would suspect, there is a Starbucks within three blocks of you, no matter where you are. If you are looking for a little stronger beverage, head over to the Narrows Brewery. Located in the marina just south of the Narrows Bridge, you can’t imagine a nicer setting, and a large selection of microbrews helps to enjoy that view.
As a result of living in the Pacific Northwest, Rainier fans will never be accused of being “fair-weather only” fans. They are a hardy bunch that will not let rain or a cold, blustery day come between them and the team. (Cheney Stadium is one of the few stadiums in the country that allows umbrellas to be used, only if they do not interfere with the enjoyment of another fan at the game.) Fans in Tacoma have the same genetic make-up as the Seattle Sounders soccer fans and the Seattle Seahawks and their famous “12th Man.” They come early, they are very into the game and they are loud. Leading them in their cheers is the team mascot, a “raindeer” named Rhubarb. The typically blue-collar crowd also loves the social side of things, and gravitates to the berms and party decks found throughout the field.
One of the only shortcomings of Cheney Stadium is actually getting to the stadium. Tacoma is located at the base of the Puget Sound, where it becomes the entryway to the Olympic Peninsula. This means it is bordered on the north and the west by bodies of water, leaving I-5 as the main access point to the city. This portion of I-5 is almost always congested at any time of day, as there is constant truck traffic due to the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, as well the commuter traffic coming into the greater Seattle area from outlying suburbs.
The directions from I-5 to the stadium are quite simple — you will take exit 132 (Highway 16) heading west. At the 19th Street exit, you merge to the right onto 19th. At Clay Huntington Way, turn right into the stadium parking lot. If you see a high school as you turn into Huntington Way, don’t worry — you are in the right place. Foss High School serves as a parking facility for the stadium. Now that you have arrived at Cheney Stadium, the access story improves greatly. The most recent renovations centered on improving the fan experience.
There are now four points of entry into the stadium, and the concourses have been widened in order to provide better flow throughout the stadium. The concession areas have been redesigned and increased to minimize your wait in line. The seating bowl around the stadium has also been redesigned with wider aisles for better access.
Return on Investment 3
Due to limited seating and limited parking, a visit to Cheney Stadium can be expensive. The stadium seats only 6,500 people, which is small by AAA standards. The good news is that a wide variety of price options is available for seating. The prices quoted are for pre-purchased (before the day of the game) tickets: Dugout level ($25.50), Reserved seating ($13.50), General Admission for R-Yard ($15.50), Family Terrace/Berm seating ($7.50). Concession prices can vary greatly, due to wide menu selection. Regional specialties tend to be higher-priced (average $8.50), while typical baseball fare is in $4-$5 range. Parking at a Cheney Stadium parking lot is very limited and expensive ($10).
In the Pacific Northwest, publicly-funded buildings are required to include public art into their design, and Cheney Stadium is no exception. Check out the many examples of sculpture and Northwest-inspired imagery at the entrance to the stadium. Just a few miles from the stadium is one of the most unique and beautiful museums in the Pacific Northwest, The Museum of Glass. Artist Dale Chihuly makes his home in Tacoma, and the museum is filled with sculptures, mosaics, florals and landscapes, all made of varying colors of blown glass.
There is another sports facility you will want to check out, as it is the world’s largest domed facility made completely of wood. It is hard to miss the Tacoma Dome as you head south towards to Tacoma on I-5 from Seattle.
The Tacoma minor league franchise was originally an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The lighting towers still in use at Cheney Stadium today were reclaimed from Seals Park in San Francisco, the first ballpark the Giants played in when they moved to the west coast from New York City.
For those who enjoy nature or who want to check out the wild side, Tacoma offers the Point Defiance Zoo and Park. The zoo is one of the top zoos in the country, and the floral gardens in the park are spectacular in the spring and summer.