TACOMA, Wash. – Mikal Thomsen admits he kicked the tires for more than a decade.
“It’s fun to think about being an owner and then you think about what being an owner of a minor league baseball team is," he said.
But the 54-year-old wireless magnate couldn’t resist and, on Monday, closed a deal to purchase the Tacoma Rainiers.
“It’s a big part of my childhood,” Thomsen said about his days running around Cheney Stadium.
He grew up in University Place and graduated from Curtis High School. In between, he spent a lot of time at the stadium off Tyler Street.
“My dad was a pharmacist. My mom would take my brother and I down here, drop us off, we’d come in, have dinner, watch a ballgame and then dad would meet us after work."
He recounts games including Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Matty and Jesus Alou, and seeing Willie Mays and Willie McCovey when the San Francisco Giants came through town.
“I became a baseball fan in this stadium and I’m a huge baseball fan today.”
Thomsen says those memories provoked him when he first was approached to buy the team from the Dallas-based Schlegel Sports Group. He put together a group of 13 people he says “have lived or worked in Tacoma” to finalize the deal. He identified business partner and fellow wireless magnate John Stanton as another minority owner.
Terms of the deal are undisclosed, but Thomsen says the group paid the going rate for AAA franchises. PCL President Branch Rickey acknowledges that would likely be between $13 million and $17 million.
Rickey called Thomsen’s group and the local ownership important for the South Puget Sound region. The Rainiers have been owned by out-of-state investors for almost two decades.
“It’s nice to have someone who has this kind of enthusiasm,” Rickey said, “and the regard they appear to hold in the community.”
Thomsen’s group takes over during an off-season of change in Tacoma. Cheney Stadium’s $30 million renovation is nearly complete and should be done in time for the home opener April 15. Thomsen says it's important for the long-term stability and viability of the franchise.
“It’s going to be a great place to watch a game," Thomsen said.
Mariners President Chuck Armstrong praised the sale, saying in a written statement: “We applaud the outgoing ownership group for all that they have done for Tacoma Rainiers Baseball, especially the Cheney Stadium renovations. They have been excellent stewards of our AAA charges in Tacoma and good to work with. We thank them for all of their efforts, and wish them well in their future endeavors.
"All of us in this region should be grateful that they found truly local buyers to purchase the Rainiers. We are looking forward to working with the new ownership group. Everything we know about them is positive, and this group should ensure stability for many years to come.”
“I’m not buying a club in Spokane. I’m not buying a club in Portland. I’m buying a club in Tacoma and the reason is the deep personal ties.”