in Our View: Bring On Baseball

Plan for moving Yakima’s team to Vancouver has several encouraging aspects

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Owners of a Class A pro baseball team want to move to Vancouver, and their plan carries several positive components. Although still in its preliminary phase, the proposal is promising largely because of the limited way it calls for public financing.

A $23 million stadium near Clark College would be supported in part by an “entertainment admissions fee.” Essentially, that’s an entertainment tax, so, if you have money to spend on entertainment, you’d be taxed on it. Unlike a sales tax or a property tax, this shouldn’t be taking bread and milk off your table. This would yield a projected $1 million annually toward the stadium cost. This tax would be paid only at the discretion of the entertainment patron (exemptions could be part of the plan), and an estimated $4 million annual boost to the local economy would result.

Some of the 3,500-seat stadium would be funded by private-sector investments and guarantees, naming rights and luxury boxes. That means no large requests from team owners to cash-strapped city or county politicians.

Of course, those numbers are projections. But it’s obvious that the team owners consider Vancouver “a major upgrade from Yakima,” where attendance has slumped to 1,900 per game, last in the Northwest League. (They hope to average 2,800 here.)

Beyond the numbers, though, there’s another promising part of this plan. It would mean Vancouver, essentially, growing up. Getting a pro baseball team would allow us to further our identity as a city, to claim the national pastime (professional level) that Portland abandoned.

Are we big enough? With a county population approaching half a million, we’d say so. And Vancouver-Portland is considered by many to be the largest metropolitan area without a pro baseball team. That void (created when Portland lost its Class AAA Beavers last year) is what attracted Yakima Bears owners Mike and Laura McMurray and General Manager K.L. Wombacher to Vancouver. All three say they’ll move here if their plan is approved. Part of that process will include a go-ahead from Clark County commissioners to charge the entertainment fee. Barring any unforeseen surprise, the commissioners are urged to grant that request.

The group coming in, of course, will have to win over the neighborhood where it is going, next to Clark College. But that’s really the perfect spot for the artificial-turf stadium. The college baseball team could use the facility, and other community events such as concerts and high school baseball and soccer playoffs could be scheduled there.

Here’s one more positive to consider: The Northwest League is what’s known as a short-season operation. The local schedule would include 38 home games from mid-June to Labor Day. That limited entry into professional baseball might be the best approach for a community’s first pro team.

For hard-core baseball fans, these games would be great opportunities to view aspiring Arizona Diamondbacks. Yakima is an affiliate of the National League team in Phoenix, and Class A players are three promotions from the Big Show.

Kudos to local business leader Arch Miller, former pro baseball player Mike Bomar, Ron Arp of Identity Clark County and other local supporters of Yakima’s inquiry here. For more information, visit the Facebook page Bomar has created: http://www.facebook.com/baseballVancouver, which as of Friday afternoon already had more than 1,000 “likes.”

And we can already see a great rivalry forming: Vancouver vs. Vancouver. That’s right, the Vancouver Canadians are in the same league. We could finally show those guys who the real Vancouver is!