Port Angeles soon will be home to a new West Coast League wood-bat baseball team.
The city council approved in a 6-1 decision on July 5 a three-year agreement with MACK Athletics Inc., allowing the organization to bring in a team to play and practice at Civic Field.
“I want us to change the culture of this community where we can have fun together at a ball game,” said Mayor Patrick Downie.
“One of the ways we weave the community together is through a fun, winning baseball team with fine young men who are heading to the major leagues.”
The team, which has yet to be named, will debut in June 2017 with up to 36 summertime games, said Lacey resident Matt Acker, owner of the WCL Kitsap BlueJackets and founder and co-owner of MACK Athletics.
The team would recruit college-aged players from across the country and residents would likely see players stay on the team for two to four years, he said.
“If we’re getting the right players, two years is about the longest you’re ever going to see them,” he said, adding that players usually progress into the minor and major leagues. “Then you see them as better players on television.”
Two council members raised concerns that the agreement was getting approved too quickly with little discussion by the council.
Councilman Lee Whetham, who voted against approving the agreement, said he wanted to see more details from city staff and asked to call for a vote in two weeks.
“We have had nothing to do with any part of this negotiation,” he said. “It’s a bit awkward for a few of us to be thrust forward into this situation.”
Whetham asked for letters of recommendations from elected officials who have worked with MACK Athletics Inc., staff recommendations for selling alcohol during games and have it in writing that lodging tax money could be spent toward Civic Field.
“I would love to fix Civic Field,” he said. “Last time I tried this, I was told that this isn’t going to result in any overnight stays.”
Parks and Recreation Director Corey Delikat said bringing in a city baseball team would make Civic Field eligible for lodging tax money.
“One of the exciting things I thought about this venture with Matt and his team is this does give us an opportunity to use (lodging) tax finally,” he said. “It is important to note that absolutely, a team will bring additional heads in beds and would be eligible for lodging tax improvements to Civic Field.”
Councilor Sissi Bruch also raised concerns about the lack of detail the council was given regarding the agreement.
“I think everybody is excited, but have we really vetted it?” she asked. “Have we checked out how this worked in other communities? I totally support this. I just needed more information.”
Following the vote, two members of the audience criticized the city council for acting so quickly, despite the owners saying waiting two weeks would be fine.
That criticism garnered applause from the crowd.
Delikat said the contract was a year in the making, working with the city’s Senior Babe Ruth Wilder Baseball squad at MACK Athletics Inc. to work out an agreement.
“We wanted to make sure Wilder … didn’t feel like they were getting kicked out,” he said.
Wilder will have scheduling priority to host its annual summertime Dick Brown Memorial Tournament.
Permission to sell alcohol is part of the agreement that will bring the city $275 a game for 32 home games in 2017, or $8,800 annually.
The city’s per-game fee to MACK would increase to $283.25 a game in 2018 and $291.75 a game in 2019.
Team practices would generate $15 an hour, and Acker would pay another $15 an hour to run youth instructional clinics at any city-owned athletic field.
Alcohol would not be allowed to be taken in or out of Civic Field, and MACK Athletics will provide security and crowd control.
Residents can take part in a straw poll for potential team names at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-PAnametheteam.
Jesse Major is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.