Saturday, June 18, 2011

MARINERS: A night at Cheney Stadium, home of the Tacoma Rainers

Last Friday with my Grandparents, I had the opportunity to attend a game at Cheney Stadium, home of the Tacoma Rainers. I had never been to a minor league game before, and I wanted to see the differences it had compared to Safeco Field and the major league atmosphere.

Unlike downtown Safeco, Cheney resides in the middle of a Tacoma suburb and is adjacent to Henry Foss High School. There is one main parking lot that can hold the stadium capacity of 9,600 people, which is a breath of air compared to the $30 you pay for parking in Seattle.

More pictures and analysis after the jump

The stadium recently received a $30 million renovation, which includes the visually appealing home plate entrance you see at the top of the page. It's very charming and hometownish, but also is up to date and not falling apart. Most of the people you see in the picture are buying tickets from the box office, not waiting in line to get into the stadium.

The inside of Cheney is very open aired, so the sunlight really brightens up the place. The air smells like Barbecue and burgers even more so than Safeco, which makes you feel as if you're at your family reunion picnic. The glass paned building you see on the right of the picture is the Rainers pro shop, which was probably 1/4 the size of the Quest Field pro shop to give you some perspective.

Our tickets cost $11 each, so you would expect us to be sitting in the nosebleeds (as if there's actually nosebleeds in a stadium of 9,600 people). But we actually had great seats, sitting about 15 rows up directly behind home plate.

You want seats like that at Safeco and you're at LEAST shelling out $70 to buy them off someone on StubHub or another ticketing exchange website. Minor League baseball gives families a cheap, affordable alternative compared to spiked up ticket prices for pro games.

Cheney has some other cool, unique features to separate it from other stadiums. Down the left field line, there are four "party decks" where a company or sponsor can buy out an entire deck for individual games. According to a security guard I talked to, each deck can hold up to 200 people and unlimited food is provided until 8:00.

Down the right field line, there's one more party deck and a grass hill for people to sit on. I attempted to lay down in the grass for a while, but got kicked out by a security guard because apparently only people with general admission tickets can lounge in the grass. Lame.

Speaking of security guards, I noticed that 75% of Cheney's workers were at least 30-years-old or younger. Would seem like a pretty cool job, being a security guard at a minor league park and getting to watch a game in the process.

One thing Safeco expectantly does better than Cheney is the food choice. All Cheney has is your generic ballpark food consisting of hot dogs, fries, nachos, etc whereas Safeco has Thai food, Iver's, candy, and a good variety of foods. But something I do have to hand Cheney is their immense quantity of Barbecue foods, which like I said earlier, fills the stadium with a pleasant aroma.

Oh yeah, the game. The Rainers ended up losing 4-3 to the Salt Lake City Bees. The sold out crowd kind of had a "meh" attitude toward everything except a home run or an amazing outfield catch. I kind of expected that, as this is the MINOR leagues, so you would expect a MINOR reaction, right?! (Fine. That was terrible.) The loudest point Cheney ever got to was when we watched (the teams arrived an hour late, so the first three innings of the Mariners game was on the jumbotron) Dustin Ackley hit a ball up the middle in his first major league at bat.

But I will admit, it did get kind of annoying not knowing who half the Rainers team was. I recognized guys like Ryan Langerhans, Mike Wilson, and Josh Lueke, but didn't have a clue who Danny Bautista and Johan Limonta were. Part of the glory of sports is cheering for individual players, and I kind of missed that Friday night.

All and all, my experience at Cheney Stadium was excellent. I felt as though I had been warped back to the 1960's when sports stadiums were smaller and everything was a bit meeker. The stadium felt very homely and made me like I had been there every day of my life. If you're really itching for some baseball, but don't want to pay the major league prices, I highly recommend a Tacoma Rainers game at Cheney Stadium.

Here's the rest of the photos...

(COPYRIGHT NOTE: All these photos are taken by me on my phone camera, but I'm willing to allow these to be reused by others.)

Reach Nathan Parsons at