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Rainiers on the block

Tacoma RainiersWhen Cheney Stadium opens in April after an extreme makeover, the Tacoma Rainiers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) may be close to having new owners with ties to the Seattle Mariners, as a local group led by Mikal Thomsen is looking to buy the team from Bob and Kirby Schlegel and minority investor Nick Lachey.

The Schlegels bought the Rainiers in the fall of 2006 from George Foster, who had unsuccessfully sought to sell the team for several years. Under their leadership, the team’s finances were put on a solid footing, and they persuaded the city to go ahead with a dramatic renovaton of historic Cheney Stadium.

It sounds like many in Tacoma are surprised by the sale, but it’s a pretty shrewd move: the value of the franchise is dramatically higher with the ballpark renovations, and there’s nothing but potential on the bottom line for the team. The Schlegels wouldn’t be the first owners to flip a team after increasing its worth.

The Thomsen group is local. Thomsen is not a sporting neophyte — he’s part of the group that experienced success in 2010 with the launch of the Walla Walla Sweets (summer collegiate; West Coast League), and in the past he was associated with the Seattle SuperSonics (NBA) ownership. He’s also involved with the Seattle Mariners as a minority owner via Baseball Club of Seattle. The Curtis High grad made his money by founding Trilogy Equity Partners and overseeing wireless telecom firms in the Pacific Northwest. John Stanton, also involved with the Sonics and Baseball Club of Seattle, is part of the potential new Tacoma ownership.

It’s been a rough ride in the sporting world for the Schlegels. The pair once owned minor-league hockey teams in Des Moines and Frisco, Texas, but those holdings were sold or suspended.

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