A group of local investors calling itself the Baseball Club of Tacoma has entered a preliminary letter of intent to begin negotiations to buy the Tacoma Rainiers from the team's current principal owners, SDL Baseball Partners.
The Baseball Club of Tacoma was being led by Tacoma native and Curtis grad Mikal Thomsen.
Thomsen met with Mayor Marilyn Strickland, City Manager Eric Anderson, Strickland and the Rainiers management team on Monday to talk about the prospective purchase, Strickland said.
"The first question I asked was, " "Do you have any intention of moving the team out of Tacoma?" she said. The immediate answer was " 'No, we don't,' " she added.
Mike Combs, the city's public assembly facilities director who oversees the stadium, said he's pleased over the possible purchase.
"Local ownership is always a positive," he said. "I'm just excited that a local group sees the value of the team in our area. It's always great to have local flair."
The name of the group - Baseball Club of Tacoma - "says a lot," Combs observed.
He stressed, though, that the city's had a positive relationship with the current Dallas-based owners, Bob and Kirby Schlegel. “If it goes forward, I’m going to miss Kirby and Bob,” he added.
A sale would not affect the renovation of Cheney Stadium, Combs said. Lease agreements would be transferred in any transaction.
Combs said the city tried to get local ownership when the team was for sale by George Foster, who ended up selling the team to the Schlegels in November of 2006, but no one came forward. Combs believes the aging infrastructure of Cheney Stadium played a role in that.
Work on the "new" Cheney Stadium is due for "substantial" completion April 1 - two weeks before opening day - Combs said.
Thomsen, a Washington State grad, is co-founder of Trilogy Equity Partners, an investment group based in Bellevue. Thomsen has extensive experience in telecommunications - serving as the president and before that chief operating officer of Western Wireless Communications.
One of his fellow co-founders at Trilogy is John Stanton, who founded Western Wireless and also is a member of the Baseball Club of Seattle – the minority owners of the Seattle Mariners.
Thomsen and Stanton also were part of the Basketball Club of Seattle, LLC, the former SuperSonics ownership group.
Thomsen still has several ties to the Tacoma area and serves as a member of the executive board of the Tacoma Glass Museum.
This would not be Thomsen's first foray into baseball. In 2009, he and Stanton, Stanton's wife Theresa Gillespie, Peter Van Oppen, Greg Shaw and former Mariner Jeff Cirillo bought the expansion Walla Walla Sweets franchise that participates in the West Coast League - a summer amateur league for top college players.
Submitting a preliminary letter of intent triggers a mechanism in the Pacific Coast League requiring that prospective owners submit a preliminary application review, said Branch Rickey, PCL commissioner.
This preliminary application review – PAR – places a burden on the buyer to come forward to have a review by the league of the deal points, the complexion of the ownership and ownership projections and resources, Rickey said, adding that the Baseball Club of Tacoma has not yet submitted a PAR.
"But I expect it in very short order," Rickey said.
Rickey labeled the talks "preliminary," but when asked how often a prospective ownership group gets to the point of submitting a PAR and then doesn't acquire a franchise, he responded, "rarely."
"It’s happened on occasion," Rickey said. "The circumstances when they happen would have conditions that aren’t present here."
City leaders, who last year OK'd a $26.5 million renovation of the ballpark, are ecstatic.
"It's the best thing that could happen to the team," Mayor Strickland said. "The Rainiers have a loyal fan base. Tacoma has really stood behind this team."
- Staff writer Kris Sherman contributed to this post