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2011 Renovation of the Year: Cheney Stadium

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Cheney Stadium

We're back with our second round of Ballpark Digest awards for 2011. Today, we have another renovation award: Best Renovation ($20M+) for Cheney Stadium, home of the Tacoma Rainiers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League).

To say that the renovation notable is an understatement. Making changes to something considered an institution in the local community is always an activity fraught with risk, guaranteed to generate opposition no matter what is proposed. Not necessarily surprising: it’s not easy making major changes to a place where so many people spent so much time over the years, especially when they were children.

In Tacoma, the Rainiers and their partners overcame opposition to the ballpark renovation and delivered a project that was on time and on budget -- an incredible achievement, considering the $30-million renovation took only 210 days. To say that the ballpark renovation saved Pacific Coast League baseball in the city is not an overstatement.

In recognition of the successful project, the makeover of Cheney Stadium is the winner of the 2011 Ballpark Renovation of the Year ($20M+) in the annual Ballpark Digest awards. This was certainly the year of the renovation in the ballpark world; we've already recognized the makeover of Warner Park, home of the Madison Mallards (summer collegiate; Northwoods League), in our first round of awards.

“Cheney Stadium was an iconic ballpark of its time, closely tied to the community and,” said Kevin Reichard, publisher of Ballpark Digest. “But a renovation was needed: the economics of pro baseball are much different than it a decade ago, and fans expect a lot more when it comes to comfort and services. The old Cheney Stadium was unable to fulfill a lot of these expectations; the new one does so with style.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the results of the renovation.” said Rainiers team president Aaron Artman. “Our design/build team took an aging venue with a ton of charm and managed to give us modern amenities with state of the art features while keeping the nostalgia of the ballpark that had seen 52 seasons of baseball.”

Some history is in order. Cheney Stadium opened in 1960 build largely with lumber harvested from the Pacific Northwest. It’s named for Ben Cheney, the inventor of the two-by-four stud and whose generosity made the ballpark possible: he personally guaranteed any cost overruns past the original $900,000 budget, ending up paying $100,000 at the end of the project. A life-size statue of Cheney in his usual ballpark seat commemorates the man and his accomplishments.

At its core, the renovated Cheney Stadium incorporates over 9,000 pounds of steel that span across over 96,000 square feet and a roof made from Douglas Fir glu-lam beams, the largest of which weigh over 7,000 pounds. The ballpark's wooden exterior, extending up to 75 feet high at its peak, certainly is firmly in the Pacific Northwest architectural tradition. Every addition was constructed using local materials, built with Tacoma in mind.

Cheney Stadium now features amenities that include luxury suites, a new club/restaurant, club seats that are closer than any other seat in any other baseball park across the nation and a grass berm located along right field. The ballpark boasts double the number of concession points of sale and more ADA seating capacity with better ADA access. Gone are the wooden walls that lined left and right field, replaced by lower, padded, chain-link fences featuring inset bullpens. 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.

“By enhancing this Tacoma community icon, we were able to introduce fan-friendly and functional amenities while preserving the Cheney experience,” said David Bower, Populous Principal.

"The success of this ballpark is attributed to the collaborative spirit of the entire team," said Rob Warnaca, Mortenson Construction Project Executive. "Both the Rainiers and the City of Tacoma were active partners in planning the design and construction of this fast paced project.  This partnership enabled the delivery of a beautiful baseball venue, completed on budget and in only one off season,"

“Presenting amenities expected by today’s fans while keeping the historic feel of an older ballpark is quite a challenge,” Reichard said. “The changes to Cheney Stadium are traditional in feel, yet modern in function. It’s hard to imagine how this could have been better.”

Ballpark Digest isn't the only body to recognize the Cheney Stadium accomplishments: Mortenson Construction received a national design-build award from the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) for the ballpark renovation. Design-build is an integrated approach that delivers design and construction services under one contract with a single point of responsibility. Owners select design-build delivery to achieve best value while meeting schedule, cost and quality goals.

ABOUT THE BALLPARK DIGEST AWARDS

Each year Ballpark Digest honors noteworthy accomplishments in the baseball world, whether it be Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, independent baseball, summer-collegiate baseball or college baseball. Readers are asked to submit nominations for awards in specific categories; Ballpark Digest editors then go though the submissions (numbering some 400 pages of documentation last year). The awards cover both individual accomplishments as well as team accomplishments. This is the fourth season for the Ballpark Digest Awards. A complete listing of Ballpark Digest Awards can be found at www.ballparkdigest.com/awards.

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