Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, August 21, 2001


Minor league team
will not cross
the Pacific

The owners of the Tacoma
Rainiers want the team
to stay in Washington

By Al Chase

George and Sue Foster, owners of the Tacoma (Wash.) Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League, issued a press release yesterday saying they have requested permission to actively pursue local ownerships interested in purchasing the team.

The Fosters announced a little more than a year ago that the team was for sale. It appeared an agreement to sell the club to real estate developer Mark Rivers was near completion.

Yesterday's release said the Fosters have discontinued negotiations with Rivers, who considered Hawaii as a possible site in part if local investors could convince city officials to build a new stadium.

Both groups agreed to mutually cease discussions for a number of reasons, but, for the Fosters, it was due in large part to the Rivers group's intent to move the team. In several published reports, including the Star-Bulletin, the Rivers' group was publicly shopping the team to Honolulu and Reno.

"We said from the beginning that we are committed to keeping the Rainiers in Tacoma, said George Foster.

"It's safe to say the Tacoma Rainiers were nearly purchased by a group that doesn't share a similar commitment. While the door has not been definitely closed to the Rivers' group or anyone else interested in the Rainiers, it is our desire to make yet another appeal to the people of Tacoma to put the future of the Rainiers into their own hands."

The Fosters and Mark Kanai, a close family friend and the legal counsel handling the sale of the club, confirmed that two groups have expressed interest in purchasing the team.

One group is comprised of Tacoma-based business and community leaders and is represented by Tacoma attorney Colby Parks. The other group is based in nearby Bellevue, Wash.

"Obviously it is a little early to make any predictions, but it is certainly encouraging to see the community of Tacoma and the surrounding areas rallying to support our team," said Foster. "As a member of this community and a huge baseball fan, I am hopeful the team remains in Tacoma for years to come."

The Fosters have owned the team since 1991. George Foster said the team is for sale so he can devote more time to his family and family business, Foster Farms.

The incredible season being enjoyed by the parent club, the Seattle Mariners, and aging Cheney Stadium have contributed to the Rainiers being next-to- last in attendance in the 16-team PCL. The Rainiers are averaging 4,665 fans this season. The league average is 6,019.

Minor league baseball has enjoyed a boom in the last decade and one of the biggest reasons is the construction of new ball parks. Seventy-six new minor league parks have been built since 1990 and at least two more are scheduled to open up next year.

This was Rivers' plan had he purchased the Tacoma team and moved the franchise to either Honolulu or Reno. He had visited both cities to check on the potential of relocating the PCL team.

He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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