KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel contributed to our KNKX Connects to Tacoma project this week. A native of Tacoma, Thiel talked with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about how the city is on its way to becoming a major player in the region's sports scene.
Thiel discussed three established venues and a proposed development that have the Tacoma area ready for its close-up when it comes to hosting major sporting events.
The Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place hosted the U.S. Open professional golf tournament in 2015.
"It was a huge success in terms of attendance and revenues," Thiel said. "There were quibbles by the golfers about the condition of the greens but all those greens have been replaced so I'm sure Chambers Bay would love to have a second run at the U.S. Open in several years down the road."
Thiel called Chambers Bay one of the greatest reclamation projects of little-used industrial land that he can recall in the Puget Sound region.
Thiel said recent upgrades have made the Tacoma Dome even more attractive as a sports venue.
"In October, they opened up after $30 million in renovations, which includes more loading bays for bigger concerts, more restrooms, more concessions and they've rearranged the seating hopefully to have a better angle for more sports."
Thiel noted that the Tacoma Dome has been around since 1983 and has hosted a number of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments and even the Seattle SuperSonics in 1994-95, when KeyArena was under renovation.
A lot of statewide sports tournaments also have been held at the Tacoma Dome. The venue suffered a bit of a setback earlier this year, when the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Executive Board voted to no longer hold the state football championship games there. Thiel said increased rent at the Tacoma Dome was a contributing factor.
Theil said the renovations made to Cheney Stadium make it one of the best minor league baseball parks in the country.
It has attracted soccer, as well. The Tacoma Defiance, the Seattle Sounders' affiliate team, and the women's professional team the Reign FC play there now.
The teams are hoping to play at a proposed soccer-specific stadium that would be built nearby. The Tacoma City Council received a feasability study about the public-private project earlier this year. Nothing is official yet, but Thiel said it's looking positive.
"If they pull this off, it's going to be a real dynamic sports scene in the South Sound," he said.
Thiel said it's cool to witness all the changes happening in his hometown. "It's really a lot of fun to see the development. Tacoma, most recently, was the fastest-growing real estate marketplace in the country, which I find, as a kid growing up in Tacoma, amazing."