Press Talk Lets play ball … someplace else
Play ball!Well yes, but not here in Vancouver.On Monday we’ll send a reporter and a photographer to Hillsboro, Ore. to cover the Hops’ home opener. And it’s not just any home opener. It’s the former Yakima Bears’ opening season in a brand new, $15.2 million ballpark.Still, it would be a fair question to ask why The Columbian would travel 30 miles to cover a baseball game in Oregon.Well, it could have been us. It could have been the Vancouver Viziers.It was two years ago when we broke the story that the Yakima team was looking for a new home. We were their top choice. They picked us for a number of reasons but they liked the idea that they would — essentially — be the only game in town. Moving into Oregon meant they had to compete with the Blazers, the Timbers and several major college teams.“Big” Mike Thiessen, part of the Madison Group in Chicago which connects sports teams and communities, was one of the heavy lifters trying to make the Vancouver deal happen. He had done a bunch of advance work before the announcement and was confident. Very confident, actually.When I asked him two years ago what percentage he would give to having the deal come together, he said 90 percent.Privately, I had coffee with Big Mike a number of times and cautioned him that this would not be an easy road. We both know Chicago well, and Big Mike figured he’d seen plenty of politics in the Windy City. I told him he hadn’t seen nothin’ yet.There certainly was local support for the ballpark. Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Democratic County Commissioner Steve Stuart were big backers. Other community movers and shakers were on board as well.