In Our View: Learn About Baseball

Minor league proposal looks promising, so let’s get some more answers

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Why do owners of the Yakima Bears baseball team want to move to Vancouver? Likely it’s for many reasons, beginning with expectations of higher attendance and a better stadium.

But here’s another key question: Why do many leaders in Yakima want the Bears to stay? Likely it’s because many folks there simply enjoy baseball and believe having a minor league team enhances the local quality of life. But even the most frugal doubters in Yakima ought to bemoan the loss of an estimated $206,000 annually in hotel revenues if the Bears leave. That figure was reported by the Yakima Herald-Republic. Also to be considered is the loss of 450-500 temporary construction jobs that could come with a new stadium.

On May 15, The Columbian endorsed exploring the idea of bringing the Bears here, and luring them with the honey of a new stadium, funded 70 percent by a 5 percent countywide admissions tax and 30 percent by the team’s owners. We noted that the proposal, although promising, is in its preliminary phase.

A month later, we’re still excited about the prospect of professional baseball setting up shop here, and we’re anxious to learn more about it. As Kelly Parker of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce told county commissioners last week, “We are really encouraging the conversation to take place. We want to see the details.”

Unfortunately, county commissioners do not unanimously endorse such a learning process. As Stephanie Rice reported in Friday’s Columbian, County Commissioner Tom Mielke wonders why all this talk about pro baseball coming here is even taking place.

Based on resistance from Mielke and a few others in the community, we could miss out on a good thing. And there are plenty of other communities that could step up and try to snatch the Bears away from Vancouver. That’s why the exclusivity contract that was brought before county commissioners last week made so much sense. Essentially, the agreement would keep the Bears’ owners from talking to any other city about relocating. In return, the county would agree not to talk to any other team about moving here, a rather easy promise to make since no other baseball teams have formally stepped into the picture.

Mystifyingly, county commissioners balked (pardon the pun) at signing the exclusivity contract, although they are scheduled to reconsider it Tuesday.

Conversations in public meetings indicate Commissioner Steve Stuart likes the idea of minor league baseball coming here, Mielke does not and Marc Boldt is the uncommitted swing vote, which happens on many matters that go before this board.

Again, this whole thing is a process, and as Stuart told Mielke last week, “There’s a lot to cover.” Would cities agree that, if the county imposes an admissions tax, the cities wouldn’t later try to grab that revenue by passing their own admissions taxes? We won’t know unless the process continues. How reliable is that estimated $650,273 in annual revenue from the entertainment admissions tax? And would that be enough?

Is the $6.9 million in private-sector commitment from the team owners a fair share for them to pay? Would it be a good idea for Clark College to have access to a new baseball stadium that the Bears would use only 38 times a year, and would it be a good thing for that venue to be available for other public uses?

No one knows all the answers, so let’s find out.