State, Rainiers mull ways to save Seahawks Sundays

Staff writerMay 27, 2014 

HAWKS FANS IN TACOMA

Fans cheer while watching the first half the Seattle Seahawks' playoff game at The Summit Club at Cheney Stadium on Jan. 11, 2014.

PETER HALEY — Staff photographer file, 2014 Buy Photo

As a game-day option for the 12th Man, Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium offers most of the features of a neighborhood sports bar, plus a 50-foot screen.

But if Seahawks Sundays are to continue at the city-owned ballpark, state government might have to make some changes.

Only when the Seattle Seahawks were on the verge of a championship did the state Liquor Control Board notify the Tacoma Rainiers that Cheney’s alcohol license didn’t allow for the free game-watching parties the team had hosted all football season.

The way the Liquor Board interprets its own rules, sports venues can serve alcohol only at ticketed events happening at the venue itself. A broadcast of a game in Seattle or New Orleans doesn’t cut it.

“We didn’t find out until right before the Super Bowl,” said Aaron Artman, president of the Rainiers, the minor-league baseball team that leases the stadium.

So the Super Bowl watching party hired a one-man band to play, and charged $20 for admission. The ticket included a buffet that previously was available at the same price.

The presence of live entertainment was enough to satisfy the Liquor Board, and it worked out just fine for the region’s biggest game in years, the Seahawks’ 43-8 trouncing of the Denver Broncos.

It might not solve the problem, though. Artman said Cheney could repeat the formula on Sundays next fall, but he’s not sure whether fans just looking for a good place to watch a game would want to pay for live music.

Instead, the state might consider changing its rules.

The Liquor Board shouldn’t be making facilities jump through hoops for no reason, board member Chris Marr said.

“What are we gaining by insisting that they charge an admission fee?” said Marr, who toured Cheney Stadium after the issue came up. “Certainly no one’s answered the question to me.”

One reason might be if it caused a big increase in the number of events at sports venues, especially on weekends, making them harder to police. But Marr suggested that might be solved by limiting the number of events or confining them to the state’s largest sports venues.

Safeco Field might benefit from a change. Seahawks fans on their way to CenturyLink Field for a game can start by tailgating at Safeco.

At the ‘Pen, the area near the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen, they can pay admission to hear live music, drink beer and have a bite to eat.

A spokeswoman for the Mariners said the team hasn’t approached the Liquor Board about changes.

The board expects to have a work session at which the public can suggest changes to the Sports Entertainment Facility license. About 45 venues have that kind of a license.

“With greater frequency,” says a memo from staff that the board discussed at an April meeting, “applicants/licensees are finding creative ways of interpreting current regulations in order to boost their alcohol sales and increase revenue.”

Artman said Seahawks Sundays typically drew 100 to 150 people, and as many as 300.

The events took in about $40,000 for the Rainiers during the football season. That’s about as much money as a well-attended three-game weekend of summer baseball would draw, Artman said.

“We play 72 home games a year and there are 365 days in a year,” Artman said, “so we want to have as many events … at the stadium as we can.”

Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 jordan.schrader@ thenewstribune.com

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