Yakima (Wash.) officials are assessing the probable loss of the Yakima Bears (short season A; Northwest League) and the possibility that affiliated ball could be lost indefinitely.
We’re not talking a small market here: There are 242,000 people in Yakima County, and population is on the rise. And while the Bears certainly were profitable (the total rent at Yakima County Stadium was just $23,000), the lack of traction on any plan to improve facilities — and revenues — likely led the Bears management to conclude they weren’t really wanted in western Washington.
“The Yakima Bears clearly told us two years ago they didn’t want to continue playing in Yakima County Stadium because of its deficiencies and the contract arrangement they were operating under,” Commissioner Mike Leita told the Yakima Herald. “That is when we stepped back. We felt if there was a genuine interest on their part, we could have worked with State Fair Park.”
That’s fairly bogus. The Bears spent years working on plans to build a new ballpark at two different sites in Yakima, seeking state funding and working with local officials on a financing plan, and also worked to address problems at Yakima County Stadium. The Bears ownership did everything by the book, spending a lot of time and money over several years to secure a new or renovated ballpark — all met with apathy by the majority of elected officials in Yakima.
If the Bears do leave for the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, the next question will be whether pro ball will return to Yakima County Stadium. In terms of market size, it’s not bad, and it’s right in the middle of the Northwest League’s sweet spot. It’s also right in the middle of the summer collegiate West Coast League‘s sweet spot and would be one of the larger markets in that circuit. And while Yakima County Stadium doesn’t meet PBA specs, it would be just fine for summer college players.
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