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Cheney Stadium – The Pride of Tacoma

Business View Magazine

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Photo Source: Business View Magazine

Business View Magazine interviews Nick Cherniske, Director of Stadium Operations, as part of our series on minor league sports venues.

Cheney Stadium is a minor league baseball stadium located in Tacoma, Washington, a city of approximately 211,000, on the banks of Puget Sound, some 32 miles southwest of Seattle. The development of Cheney Stadium as the home of Pacific Coast League baseball in Tacoma began in 1957 as a shared idea by area businessmen Ben Cheney and Clay Huntington. Following a three-year effort by these men, the San Francisco Giants agreed, in the fall of 1959, to relocate their Triple-A club from Phoenix to Tacoma, hinged on the city’s ability to construct a new stadium in time for the beginning of the 1960 season.

Tacoma’s city council quickly approved the deal, and the project took just over three months to complete, thus earning the stadium the moniker: the “100-Day Wonder.” The speed at which the venue was built was partially due to the importation of some historical pieces from the Seals Stadium, a minor league ballpark in San Francisco, built in 1931 and demolished in 1959. “When the idea to bring baseball to Tacoma became a reality, they put six light towers on a barge, along with all the fixed seats the stadium utilized, and sent them to Tacoma,” recounts Nick Cherniske, Director of Stadium Operations. “So we had Seals Stadium seats and light towers for many years. The light towers remain and we do have a small piece of the seating bowl that actually has the same 1891 wooden seats that have been a part of baseball for over 120 years.”

Image Source: Business View Magazine

Since its inception, Cheney Stadium has hosted seven different minor league baseball teams; it has been the home of the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League, an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, since 1995, who play 70 home games there, every season. Beginning in March 2018, the Seattle Sounders FC 2 of the United Soccer League will also play their home games at Cheney, while awaiting the construction of a new stadium of their own. The stadium also hosts concerts, commencements, and corporate events. “We call them ballpark takeovers,” Cherniske quips. “Because of the weather in the northwest, especially in the winter, a lot of what you see in the offseason is focused in our suites – events and parties in our restaurant and club areas.”

After 58 years of continuous operation – Cheney Stadium is baseball’s second oldest Triple-A park – the city of Tacoma, which owns the stadium, along with its partners, the Ben Cheney Foundation and the team’s ownership committee, approved an ambitious $30 million, offseason renovation plan to include a new grandstand structure, roof, and concourse; new concession stands and seats; 16 luxury suites; a right field berm addition, a club/restaurant; a kids’ play area; and more restrooms. The Rainiers clubhouse and dugout, formerly located along the first base line, have shifted to third base, with visiting teams now residing in the fully renovated first base location. What has not changed are the views fans have grown accustomed to – the ballpark’s grandstand is still the same one constructed more than five decades ago, with the steep pitch that makes every one of its 6,500 seats in the house a great one.

“Our average capacity rate is 83.6 percent, but in the summer months of the season, June, July, and August we reach the mid 90s” reports Megan Mead, Vice President of Marketing. “In the summer, there’s no more beautiful place to be than the Pacific Northwest. People love coming out to the park; it’s a great place for families. On a clear day, we have a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier from the stadium. In the summer months, in particular, we’re selling out games, frequently.”

Mead adds that the stadium also serves as a community asset in a multitude of ways. “Tacoma is about 25 minutes south of Seattle and we have a very unique community and culture, here,” she explains. “And we have a deep connection to that community, so we make sure that we’re creating a first-class experience for everybody in the city – whether that be baseball, or, now, soccer, or the community events we support. We’ve got sports camps where we partner with local organizations that get kids out to the field. Our players visit the local children’s hospital; they do school visits. We do summer movie nights – family-friendly movies that are free and open to the public. We have a full-scale whiffle ball field that’s onsite here and open to Tacoma citizens as long as we’re not in a game. So, there’s a deep connection to the community that’s really important to us.”

Media and Communications Manager, Brett Gleason, adds that Cheney Stadium is also a good environmental citizen. “We’re a member of the Green Sports Alliance, and we have a large emphasis on stormwater prevention,” he says. “The volume of rain we get in the northwest is significant, so with pervious asphalt in our parking lots, as well as the drive coming into the stadium, we’re reducing and ideally, eliminating the amount of surface water that makes its way into the storm drains and finds its way into the Puget Sound. Also, in the 70 games that we host, we have an 8th inning recycle break, where members of the ushering staff make their way throughout the stands and ask guests to recycle with us. We take a proactive approach to collect everybody’s recyclables and make sure that they’re disposed of correctly.” Mead adds that the stadium hosts sustainability nights on Tuesdays – fans who bring in cans for recycling get discounted tickets for Tuesday night games.

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One-on-one: Mike Gomes, Senior Vice President of Fan Experience at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Stadia Magazine

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Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Photo Source: Stadia Magazine

When Mercedes-Benz Stadium became the new home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS side Atlanta United in 2017, not only did it showcase a ground-breaking design, it also introduced a novel food and beverage initiative to raise fan satisfaction.

In 2017 Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, became the new home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS side Atlanta United. Not only did the US$1.6bn stadium showcase ground-breaking design such as its retractable roof, but a novel food and beverage initiative was introduced in an effort to raise fan satisfaction.

Fan First pricing saw the cost of favorite items slashed by 50%, yet despite lowering prices the MBS witnessed average fan spend and consumption both increase and its F&B ranking from fans raise from 18th in 2016 to first in 2017. Behind the new fan fare, Mike Gomes, senior vice president of fan experience at Mercedes-Benz stadium, spoke to Stadia about how the F&B offering went down.

Tell us how the Fan First program originated … 
If you look at fan feedback from research you notice that food and beverage is one of the most important factors [on game day], however we noticed the industry as a whole doesn’t perform well in terms of value, while quality and variety also isn’t great, plus fans are having to wait too long in line. This was the genesis of how we looked at food and beverage differently.

Before we ever broke ground on the new stadium we knew we wanted to introduce this. Owner and chairman Arthur Blank said, “We’re going to lower food so it’s fair for fans and family”.

So, in May 2016 we announced Fan First pricing where fan favorite food items would be sold at different prices: US$2 for hotdogs, pretzels, fries, and pizza, a US$2 refillable soda – more than a 50% decrease in prices from the Georgia Dome and more than 50% less than other stadiums charge.

How did the fans react? 
We’re seeing a much higher consumption model. By the end of the first quarter of an NFL game we’re seeing as much consumption as we used to see in a total game at the Georgia Dome. That’s approximately 140,000 units of food and beverage. Fans are buying more.

Whereas before fans would have to choose between this or that, now they can [buy] this and that. At the end of our first NFL and soccer season [at the stadium] we are number one in the league in all of the important metrics: food and beverage, quality, variety, speed of service, and value – so the fans have reacted very positively.

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Open Venues at Risk of Disappearing, Says Climate Coalition Report

BBC Sport

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St Andrews last hosted The Open in 2015. Photo Source: Getty Images

Open Championship venues such as St Andrews and Royal Troon could be under water by the end of the century if sea levels rise even slightly as a result of climate change, according to a new report.

The Climate Coalition says golf, football and cricket face an “unexpected threat”, with cricket to be the “hardest hit”.

The report predicts “cancelled football matches, flooded cricket grounds and golf courses crumbling into the sea”.

It adds that rising winter temperatures mean the Scottish skiing industry could collapse within 50 years.

The report says six of the UK’s seven wettest years on record have occurred since 2000, with cricket’s County Championship already losing thousands of overs every season.

“Climate change is already impacting our ability to play and watch the sports we love,” said the report, adding that extreme weather is a factor in declining participation and lost revenue.

The report says “only a small increase in sea-level rise would imperil all of the world’s links courses before the end of the century”.

The Open is the only one of golf’s majors played in the UK and is hosted on links courses, including – as well at St Andrews and Royal Troon – Royal Birkdale, Hoylake, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Muirfield, Sandwich, Turnberry, Portrush and 2018 venue Carnoustie.

It adds that “more than 450 years of golfing history” at Montrose, one of the five oldest courses in the world, is at risk of being washed away by rising seas and coastal erosion linked to climate change.

Research published by Dundee University in 2016 showed the North Sea has crept 70 metres towards Montrose within the past 30 years.

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