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Cheney Stadium / Tacoma Rainiers

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Cheney Stadium began as a labor of love for a local businessman, Ben Cheney, who wanted a showcase for baseball in Tacoma. Today Cheney (pronounced chee-ney) Stadium is still a beloved part of the fabric of life in Tacoma, largely unchanged from the original designed laid out by Ben Cheney in the early 1960s.

FAST FACTS

Year Opened: 1960
Capacity: 9,600
Dimensions: 325L, 350L, 385LC, 425C, 385RC, 350R, 325RL
Playing Surface: Grass
Website: tacomarainiers.com
Phone: 253/752-7700
League: Pacific Coast League
Parent: Seattle Mariners
Parking: The Rainiers charge $5 to park in an adjoining lot. Many fans park outside the lots and walk in; the street parking on Cheyenne is limited, though the walk is short.
Address/Directions: 2502 S. Tyler St., Tacoma. From Interstate 5, take Exit 132 (Highway 16) west and then take the 19th Street exit going east (to the right). Once on 19th, turn right on Cheyenne.

Cheney Stadium began as a labor of love for a local businessman, Ben Cheney, who wanted a showcase for baseball in Tacoma. Today Cheney (pronounced chee-ney) Stadium is still a beloved part of the fabric of life in Tacoma, largely unchanged from the original designed laid out by Ben Cheney in the early 1960s.

True, the ballpark has been modernized since then. New seating and new group areas have been installed in recent years, and old Ben could not have foreseen the modern new scoreboard in center field. But the basic design is the same, with some delightful new touches.

One of those touches involves Ben Cheney -- or a representation of him, at least. As Tacoma officials oversaw the installation of new seating in sections B-P, they left intact part of one section (Section K) with old seats originally installed in Seals Stadium during the final days of the PCL's Seals and the earliest days of the San Francisco Giants (you can see that ballpark being demolished on our Endangered Ballparks page). The light stanchions, still standing, also came from Seals Stadium. Go to Section K, Row 1, Seat 1 and you'll find a statue of Ben Cheney, peanuts in hand, wearing a blazer with a Cheney Studs patch. Cheney will go down in history as the inventor of the 2x4 stud cut down to eight feet -- quite the innovator in his day -- but he was also a fan, sponsoring Cheney Studs with 5,000 kids playing on Cheney Studs teams over the years in different sports. Thanks to the bronze statue he's forever the fan, enthralled with the action on the field. (Section A also features the old seats.)

Old Ben may have a great view of the field, but he doesn't have one of the best views in the ballpark. On a clear day you can see Mount Rainier from the back of the left-field grandstand. Yeah, for some regulars a view of Mount Rainier may be a little ho-hum, but for visitors it's a special treat to have such a grand view framed by the grandstand and the right-field bleachers.

If you check out photos of Cheney Stadium under construction, you can see the basic structure of the ballpark has been unchanged. The grandstand is still the same, with the familiar flying buttresses outside and concessions tucked underneath. The grandstand features theater-style seating, while there are sections of bleachers down each line. (Avoid the right-field bleachers and sections at the start of a game, as they're in the sun field; if it's rainy, go for row 7 or above, as they're protected by the overhang.) Alas, no outfield berm: the fence backs up against a road. Still, there's the prototypical Northwest evergreen skyline beyond the scoreboard and fence.

Perhaps the major change to Cheney Stadium has been its evolution as a group facility. There are group decks down each line, located between the grandstand and the playing field, giving fans sitting at picnic tables great views of the action. There are no enclosed suites at Cheney.

If you go, be prepared for the huge weather shifts so typical of the Northwest. Though it would cool down to the point where blankets and sweatshirts would be brought out, it was hot in the sun at the beginning of the game. That transition from shorts to sweatshirt happens quickly when the sun sets.

Ben Cheney would have been especially happy at the game we attended, as the Portland Beavers were in town. The Beavers played at the very first PCL game at Cheney Stadium, defeating the Tacoma Giants 7-2. The baseball fates of Tacoma and Portland have been intertwined since the turn of the century, and while the battle we witnessed didn't have the intensity of a Tacoma Tigers/Portland Browns game from 1904, we would guess. The baseball means a little less than it did when Cheney Stadium first opened, but the crowds still come out with great enthusiasm -- and surely somewhere Ben Cheney is smiling at that.

CONCESSIONS
All concessions, save a small beer garden down the left-field line, are located outside the grandstand. The main concession stand is in the same spot as the day the ballpark opened -- between home plate and third base tucked under the grandstand -- with additional concession booths scattered among the outer concourse. You'll miss the action on a beer run, but the radio broadcasts are piped to the outer areas. A Rainier Dog is s mandatory: the Cloverdale frank is tasty. If you want to gorge on cow, full-pound grilled burgers are available. Other stands in the concourse feature BBQ, pizza, coffee/espresso, candy, the ubiquitous Dippin' Dots and Mexican food.

There's a large beer garden down the left-field line. We visited during a $1 night (soda, hot dogs and beer for a buck each), and the beer garden was packed, as it was the only place to buy the buck beer. (We expect many of those fans never bothered to leave the beer garden and watch the game.) Beers on tap include Red Hook, Rainier (how can you attend a Rainiers game and not drink Rainier Beer?), Bud and Bud Light. A smaller bar tucked under the grandstand, The Pub, features premium beers: Long Ball Lager, Fat Tire, Widmer Hefeweizen, Red Hook (all $6), Rainier ($5) and Labatt Blue ($5.50).

FOR THE KIDS
There is a kids' play area in the back, with most games going for $1 each.

PARKING
The Rainiers charge $5 for parking in an adjoining lot.

BALLPARK HISTORY
Cheney played an important role in getting the ballpark built. He didn't fund the original construction -- the city of Tacoma and Pierce County came up with $900,000 in ballpark financing -- but his personal guarantee to cover any cost overruns was key to public support of the project. (He kept his word and paid for at least $100,000 in overruns.)

The ballpark was built for the relocated Phoenix Giants, with the Tacoma Giants playing at Cheney from 1960 through 1965. The team has undergone several name changes as affiliations shifted: Tacoma Cubs (1966-1971), Tacoma Twins (1972-1977), Tacoma Yankees (1978), Tacoma Tugs (1979), Tacoma Tigers (1980-1994) and Tacoma Rainiers (1995-present). The Seattle Rainiers were a mainstay of the Pacific Coast League from 1938-1964, but the current Rainiers are a descendent in name only from the original Rainiers.

Before/After the Game
Cheney Stadium is located in a largely residential area of Tacoma; there's not much within walking distance of the ballpark unless you want to do some shopping at a local Fred Meyer.