AquaSox shortstop Ben Ramirez is doused with water by teammates after the AquaSox beat the Eugene Emeralds to clinch a playoff berth, Sept. 4, in at Funko Field in Everett. (Photo provided by AquaSox)

AquaSox shortstop Ben Ramirez is doused with water by teammates after the AquaSox beat the Eugene Emeralds to clinch a playoff berth, Sept. 4, in at Funko Field in Everett. (Photo provided by AquaSox)

Editorial: City’s $1 million an investment in Everett baseball

Contracts for preliminary work on an AquaSox stadium honor team’s 40 years of family fun and tradition.

By The Herald Editorial Board

The Everett City Council, in a 6-0 decision, made the right call last week to put up $1.1 million for initial work in two separate contracts that will help keep the AquaSox High-A Minor League Baseball team in Everett, as professional baseball marks its 40th year in Everett.

The council authorized two contracts; a $344,000 agreement for project management, and a $807,000 pact for environmental impact evaluations of work to either remodel the AquaSox current home at Funko Field at Memorial Stadium, or build a new park at that location or at a site in downtown Everett near the Angel of the Winds Arena.

The council, at the suggestions of Council President Brenda Stonecipher, also intends to create a fiscal advisory committee for the project that could include representatives of the public, the city and county, the team and Everett Public Schools, which manages the use of Memorial Stadium and the baseball park.

The council’s actions — in its investment for initial work and its interest in keeping tabs on the project and its funding — recognize the importance of the baseball club to the city’s economy and its quality of life and the necessity to ensure a public-private partnership makes a significant investment for Everett and Snohomish County and keeps the process transparent and accessible.

Such an investment will be significant. The Seattle company hired as project manager has put a cost estimate of between $40 million and $80 million for either remodel or new construction. And other cities and communities considering their own stadium projects for their Minor League teams have cited potential costs between $80 million and $125 million.

Everett isn’t alone in looking to refurbish or build a new stadium; many of Minor League Baseball’s 120 teams are expected to enjoy new or remodeled parks in the next few years.

The building boom in minor league stadiums is the result of Major League Baseball’s decision to take more control of and make investments in its farm system, the High-A, Double-A and Triple-A teams where players are developed and prepare for play on Major League teams, such as the Seattle Mariners, whose affiliates include Everett and the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. Major League Baseball, in 2020, pared the number of affiliates it partners with from 162 teams to the current 120, in part to provide better pay to its players.

As late as 2019, there were reports that not just the AquaSox, but the entire Northwest League that it plays in, might be relegated to a “dream league” of independent teams without direct ties to Major League Baseball or its teams.

Everett and the Northwest League not only kept their affiliation with Major League Baseball, they were moved up from short season A to High-A with 132-game seasons. But the realignment meant the league was cut to six teams from eight, with teams in Boise and Salem, Ore., dropped and now playing in independent leagues.

At the same time as the realignment, Major League Baseball also informed the 120 affiliates that remained that they and their hometowns would be expected to meet minimum requirements for team facilities, requiring significant upgrades for most stadiums, fields and training facilities.

An example of the deficiencies at Funko Field; the clubhouses for home and visitors are cramped, outdated and located in a building a short walk from the stadium, rather than as part of the stadium, itself.

Paring down the league also gave Major League Baseball leverage to enforce the new stadium standards and put most clubs on a strict timeline for completion; with some 40 teams cut from the minor leagues, there are now an ample number of cities — two former Northwest League cities — who might take advantage if Everett did not move forward with stadium plans.

Already, the Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops have been informed by Major League Baseball that it has until March 15 to show it has secured funding for a new stadium. It has much of the $120 million needed for a new ballpark, but it is waiting on a pledge of $15 million from the Oregon state legislature in its budget, funding that may not be approved until near that deadline.

The Everett project has $7.4 million in state funding secured, adopted earlier this year by the Legislature, and between $5 million to $10 million in commitments from the AquaSox. Much more from private and public arenas must follow.

AquaSox co-owner Chad Volpe told the Everett council last week that the team currently is paying Major League Baseball an annual “six-figure fee” until it can show the project is well underway.

It would be easy to fault Major League Baseball for the hard-ball tactics it is using to get new or refurbished stadiums, but there is ample interest here for Everett and the larger region and its public and private partners to make this investment.

The economic benefit to the city, especially if one of two downtown sites were used, is easily compared to what the Angel of the Winds Arena and its convention center provides, according to an analysis by the City of Everett. In 2019, with a shorter season and about 40 home games, the AquaSox at Funko brought in $6.6 million in business revenue and another $2 million in labor revenue for 45 jobs, compared to Angel of the Winds’ $47.5 million in business revenue and $17.2 in labor income from 385 jobs.

Because a new stadium would be able to offer more dates for concerts, exhibitions and other events, the potential for added business at either of the two downtown locations could offer business revenue of between $45 million and $55 million and labor income between $17 million and $21 million from 360 to 440 jobs, the analysis estimates.

Other cities with minor league teams that have already built stadiums, including two visited by city officials and others in North Carolina and South Carolina, showed significant commercial and residential development that was planned or had already built up around the new stadiums, adding to the positive economic and quality-of-life impacts.

For 40 years — starting with the Everett Giants in 1984 and continued by the Mariners-affiliated AquaSox since 1995 — the presence of a Minor League Baseball team has provided a venerable pastime for baseball fans and families, and done so at prices far more affordable and at facilities more accessible than its Major League counterparts.

A new or refurbished stadium honors that legacy and can continue that relationship for decades to come.

Correction: This editorial has been updated to reflect the sites under consideration for environmental review.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Saturday, March 2

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste, center, greets a new trooper during a graduation ceremony, as Gov. Jay Inslee looks on in the Rotunda at the Capitol Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, in Olympia, Wash. The class of 31 troopers completed more than 1,000 hours of training and will now work for the WSP across the state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Editorial: Lawmakers miss good shot for fewer traffic deaths

Legislation to lower the blood alcohol limit for drivers didn’t get floor debate and vote in Senate.

Eco-nomics: Preparing for, limiting climate crisis demands a plan

Fortunately, local governments are developing and updating climate action plans to outline necessary steps.

Comment: State ‘mansion tax’ would bite at all income levels

More than high-priced homes, it would increase costs for employers and multi-family housing projects.

Forum: Separation of church and state keeps us from unholy wars

Civilizations have tried the route of state religion, only to see the rise of religious persecution.

Sid Roberts, mayor of Stanwood
Forum: Reliance on social media leads to antisocial outcomes

The interaction via phones and screens is easily abused and limits the context of a face-to-face talk.

A model of a statue of Billy Frank Jr., the Nisqually tribal fishing rights activist, is on display in the lobby of the lieutenant governor's office in the state Capitol. (Jon Bauer / The Herald.
Editorial: Two works in progress to save Columbia Basin salmon

Sculptures of an Indian fishing rights activist will guard commitments to save salmon and honor treaties.

February 27, 2024: Alabama Embryo Ruling
Editorial cartoons for Friday, March 1

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Schwab: Kids’ are all right, if a tad cold; nation’s another matter

Alabama’s IVF ruling shows the dangers in the creep of theocracy into our courts and other institutions.

Choose sources of news carefully to understand world

From what I have seen and heard, there are still many people… Continue reading

GOP wants to run on border crisis, not fix it

Regarding a recent letter to the editor about Herald Columnist Sid Schwab,… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2015 file photo, a tanker airplane drops fire retardant on a wildfire burning near Twisp, Wash. Three firefighters were killed battling the blaze. The story was a top Washington state news item in 2015. Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has proposed a plan to strengthen the ways that Washington can prevent and respond to wildfires. Franz released the 10-year plan last week as part of her $55 million budget request to the Legislature to improve the state's firefighting abilities (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Editorial: Wildfire threat calls for restoring full funding

Lawmakers should restore funding for fighting wildfires and call on one furry firefighter in particular.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.