Base racers | Credit: Red Williamson
Eating hot dogs over your lap, holding your breath during a suspenseful play, singing along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”: These rituals are part of what makes baseball America’s pastime.
Attending a Tacoma Rainiers game — they’re a farm team for the Seattle Mariners — delivers all those memorable traditions and more. With fireworks, incredible family deals, bring-your-pooch day and other themed games, a family day at the stadium has never been more fun or more accessible. It's professional baseball with all the trimmings, at a fraction of the cost of attending a Mariners game.
From the moment my family enters Cheney Stadium, we love the nostalgia and excitement filling the air, along with the scents of all those tasty ballpark treats, such as popcorn, ice cream and peanuts.
First, we eat
Sadly, fan favorite The Red Hot has left Cheney Stadium and — worse for families — the gourmet hot dog purveyor's main shop is 21 and older only. No more Crackerjack dog, even for Rainiers mascot Rhubarb the Reindeer.
New food on deck includes rice bowls with meat or tofu and homemade peanut sauce at Ribachi, vegetarian cauliflower "wings" at Fowl Territory (get it?) and R Haus Brats offering a menu of appropriate ballpark fare.
Once we get settled in our seats — treats in hand — and the game begins, the action extends from the home team making plays to the antics of Rhubarb, and from the occasional T-shirt cannon shooting prizes into the crowd to a video board displaying birthday shout-outs and funny videos. In other words, there is much to entertain.
Options for the wiggles: new playground and Wiffle ball field
My boys are old enough now that they like to sit through a whole game, but when they were younger, we’d often take a blanket and some snacks to the stadium’s grassy right-field berm, where babies and toddlers roam free, and parents stretch out on blankets, one eye on the game and one eye on the kiddos.
In 2016, the stadum added a large play structure near the berm, with room for tag, climbing and imaginative play. A Wiffle ball field (the only regulation size Wiffle field in Tacoma) completes this kid-focused area and gives everyone an outlet when they get too squirmy in their seats.
Another great perk for kids: After the final inning of Saturday and Sunday games, kids are invited to run the bases. It’s great to see their grins as the dust trails behind them.
Special deals, special days
Taking the family out to watch a professional sporting event can do a number on the wallet. Some incredible deals for select Rainiers’ games make a day at the ballpark much more affordable.
My family’s favorite deal is the Little Caesars Family Meal Deal, which includes four reserved-seat tickets, four hats, four ballpark meals, plus coupons for two Little Caesars pizzas and two orders of Crazy Bread (for future use at a participating Little Caesars location). But wait, there’s more … this deal also includes two youth passes to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium or Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, along with two youth passes to the Museum of Glass. Note that youth passes require the purchase of adult admission. All this stuff adds up to $187 in value and costs just $44. This deal is available for select Saturday games, check the promotion schedule and make your plan.
Similarly, the Chick-fil-A Bring the Herd Deal is another popular package offering four tickets, four hats, four ballpark meals and coupons for Chick-fil-A meals. This deal is on offer for select Sunday games, including April 22 and May 20.
Many games have special themes and deals, some revolving around adult beverages. Friday night games include fireworks. Check the promotion schedule or put these popular themed summer games on your calendar.
- Tuesday, July 3: Independence Day celebration when the stadium goes all out for the fireworks display.
- Friday, Aug. 3: University of Washington night.
- Saturday, Aug. 18: Washington State University night.
All themed nights include special jerseys that are for sale through a silent auction during the games.
If you go ...
Directions: Cheney Stadium is located at 2502 S. Tyler Street, Tacoma. From Interstate 5, exit to Highway 16 West. Follow the 19th Street E. exit and merge right onto 19th Street. Make a right onto Clay Huntington Way and follow it into the parking lot of Cheney Stadium.
Parking: Parking costs $10, and it’s quickest to have cash ready, although they do accept cards. Try to get there an hour before game time for good parking and ample time to settle in.
Tickets: Regular tickets start at $11 and can typically be purchased at the stadium right before the game, or purchase in advance online to ensure you get the seats you want.
Tip: Pack a small blanket for cooler evenings, or for laying out on the berm. Outside food and drinks are not permitted, although clear, sealed water bottles are allowed. Strollers are also allowed; consider bringing a small one, such as an umbrella stroller, as a space-saver. Bags are subject to search.
Professional soccer at Cheney Stadium: New for 2018, the Seattle Sounders' second team, called S2, has made Cheney Stadium its home field (the team played previously at Starfire Sports in Tukwila), giving South Sound families a terrific chance to see professional soccer right in their 'hood. Tickets start at $7 for sitting on the grass. Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 12, when S2 takes on the Portland Timbers' second team. It's always a good match when these two rivals play.
More minor league fun: If you're north of Seattle, check out the Everett Aquasox, another minor league baseball team offering affordable pricing and lots of family fun.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2017 and updated for 2018.