October 17, 2018

Yakima Bears Hope to Fill Void Left by Beavers

July 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Baseball fans in the Portland, OR area saw their beloved Beavers head south last year for warmer pastures, but the metro-area may not go very long without a professional baseball team.

As has been reported, the Yakima Bears (Single A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks) are hopeful a planned and expected move to Vancouver, WA will not fall through and the team’s season could begin as soon as next summer.  K.L. Wombacher, the Bears’ GM, said Yakima County Stadium is not suitable for the team’s future and there is no political will in that area to build a new one.

The only way for us to relocate is for a stadium to be built, he said. There are no ballparks in the entire metro area that would meet MiLB facility standards.

Preliminary plans call for the new stadium to be built on the Clark College campus. While the Bears and baseball fans in Portland and Vancouver are hopeful about the move, it’s not a done deal. I spoke with Wombacher further about the team’s plans and the potential move.

Q: When are the Bears expected to be playing in Vancouver?

A: I’m not sure yet. The financing needs to be approved. After that, it will depend on how long it takes the city to turn around permits. There is still a chance for us to be there in 2012. The only way for us to relocate is for a stadium to be built. There are no ballparks in the entire metro area that would meet MiLB facility standards.

Q: Is the move a done deal, just a matter of when?

A: No, it’s far from a done deal. I’m not sure how the vote will go on the admission tax (a proposed 5% tax on entertainment). If it fails, I don’t know that there are any backup public funding sources available. I don’t see a way for this to happen without public funding. We’ve maintained that if a ballpark is built, we will move.

Q: If a stadium is built, what kind of a ball park can fans expect?

A: It will be state of the art and very fan friendly. There will be club level, suites, grass berms, integrated group areas and kids play areas. If people in the Portland/Vancouver market thought the Beavers’ games were fun, they haven’t seen anything yet.

Q: Did the loss of the Portland Beavers (Triple A affiliate of the San Diego Padres) have anything to do with the move?

A: It had everything to do with it. The stadium in Yakima will not work in the future and there is no political will to build a new one here. We saw an opportunity with the Beavers leaving to significantly upgrade markets.

Q: Was relocating to Portland looked at?

A: Yes, but we made Vancouver our number one priority. We feel Vancouver is a better fit and there is political will to build a stadium

Q: Will the new team be the Bears?

A: Not likely. We will have a name the team contest within the community.

Q: What is average attendance at Bears’ home games?

A: We’ve been around 1900 over the last few years

Q: Do you expect that to increase?

A: Yes, significantly

Q: What’s the current capacity of Yakima County Stadium? What capacity are you looking at for Vancouver?

A: About 2600 in Yakima. Looking around 3500 fixed seats in Vancouver with a capacity for more.

Q: When your current affiliate agreement with the Diamondbacks ends next year, what’s likely next for Yakima/Vancouver?

A: We take it year by year. We have a very good relationship with the Dbacks but we also need to make sure our teams are competitive in the future.

Q: Assuming the move goes through are there any plans to capitalize on a rivalry with two teams playing from Vancouver but different Countries

A: Absolutely. The GM for the Canadians is a friend of mine so we have already talked about it!

Currently, the Yakima Bears are 12-22 in last place, three games behind Boise. The Bears play a five-game stretch beginning July 27 at the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Salem, OR. The Bears are a Short-Season A classification team in the Northwest League. They have been a farm team for Arizona since 2001 and began play in in 1920 as the Yakima Indians. They moved from Salem, OR back to Yakima in 1990.

Notable Major League players who got their start with Yakima include Todd Hollandsworth, Paul Konerko, Ted Lilly, Shane Victorino and Chris Carter.

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