The Tacoma sports community lost the person most responsible for the fact that there is a Tacoma sports community. Stan Naccarato passed away on Wednesday at the age of 88. Naccarato is perhaps most famous for keeping the Triple-A baseball team now known as the Rainiers from leaving town in 1971, raising $100,000 in 16 hours to keep them here after the Chicago Cubs moved their Triple-A affiliate from Tacoma to Wichita, Kansas.
Although Naccarato's legacy is most closely tied to baseball, he is also responsible for launching Tacoma's soccer history. When the Rainiers decided to operate a professional soccer team for the first time, Naccarato served as GM for the Tacoma Tides.
From the beginning, it was clear that the Tides would be a professionally run organization, rivaling even that of some NASL teams. Naccarato promoted the team in Tacoma just as he had with the baseball team. He even attempted to hold a friendly with the Sounders, although that never wound up happening.
He brought in Cornell University head coach Dan Wood to lead the Tides in their inaugural season. One of the players Wood brought in was backup goalkeeper Bruce Arena. Arena would begin his hall of fame soccer coaching career in Tacoma at the University of the Puget Sound. The Tides folded after the 1976 season due to a failed attempt to fund a new stadium.
A few years later, Naccarato led efforts to build the Tacoma Dome. The first tenant of the Tacoma Dome was the Tacoma Stars, who competed in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). The Stars became more popular than anyone could have imagined, setting world records for indoor soccer attendance that they still own 3 decades later. The Tacoma Dome would later serve as a temporary home for the Seattle SuperSonics during the 1994-95 season while Key Arena was being renovated.
In the later years of the Tacoma Stars, Naccarato served as executive director and helped cut the club's losses while increasing attendance and corporate sponsorship sales, but not in time to keep the team and the league from folding. Nevertheless, Naccarato left a legacy that allowed a generation to fall in love with soccer from which Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Reign FC, and the modern Tacoma Stars all benefit.