Tacoma City Council approves Clay Huntington Way

Tacoma City Council Tuesday approved a resolution that names a city street in honor of the late broadcaster Clay Huntington, who passed away on June 1 at the age of 89. The resolution calls for designating a section of South Cheyenne Street from the corner of South 19th Street near the Heidelberg Davis Complex to the entrance of Cheney Stadium “Clay Huntington Way.”

On March 5, City Council’s neighborhoods and housing committee approved a recommendation that the full city council rename the street.

Huntington was born in 1922 and began his broadcasting career in Tacoma in 1941. He covered local sports and went on to own four stations carrying the KLAY call letters, according to KLAY’s Web site. Huntington was a sports writer for the Tacoma Times, a TAC founder, and helped establish the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame and the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame. In 1957, he created “Friends of Kids Baseball” to build what would become the Heidelberg Park sports complex for youth baseball. In 1960, he partnered with Ben B. Cheney to build a new stadium for the Tacoma Giants professional baseball team. Today, the stadium is home to the Tacoma Rainiers Triple-A baseball team.

On July 5, Tacoma Athletic Commission (TAC) Finance Committee Chair Tony Anderson and TAC Executive Secretary Doug McArthur co-wrote a letter to Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland requesting the name change. “Since there are no homes whatsoever on that stretch of Cheyenne it would seem to us that it would not create any opposition whatsoever and it certainly would be a most appropriate location to honor Huntington for his remarkable dedication to both amateur and professional baseball,” wrote Anderson and McArthur. “How appropriate if the road leading into both facilities would become Clay Huntington Way! We trust that you would share our enthusiasm and rightfully recognize a man who truly cared for the very people for whom those two sports venues exist.”

On Oct. 24, Mayor Strickland wrote a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission supporting the request. “His first love was baseball and his enthusiasm for the game led to two of the most significant projects in the city’s history near South 19th and Tyler,” wrote Strickland. “There is no question that Heidelberg would never have been a facility for youth and adult amateur teams if not for Huntington’s support and there is no arguing his role in returning professional baseball to our City.”

On Nov. 14, Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution supporting the effort. In a Nov. 29 letter to Mayor Strickland and Tacoma City Council, commission president Larry Dahl wrote, “Clay Huntington’s efforts continue to touch the lives of so many of us that have grown up in Tacoma and will continue to provide benefit to future generations. This gesture of recognition is the least we can do to honor such a wonderful man who made so many contributions to our city.”

On Jan. 11, the landmarks preservation commission held a public hearing that was attended by TAC’s Anderson and McArthur, former Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, Tacoma Pierce County Sports Commission Executive Director Tim Ware, TAC President Ron Crowe, and Victoria Geehan-Shilley, daughter of the late radio broadcaster Jerry Geehan. “It was my father who gave the young Clay Huntington his first job in radio,” Geehan-Shilley told the commission. “The renaming . . . is a fitting way to honor Clay and to keep his memory alive.”

The commission also received e-mails and letters from many supporters.

Ben B. Cheney Foundation Board President Brad Cheney wrote, “I write this e-mail on behalf of the Cheney Family and the Cheney Foundation to voice our full support in the renaming of a portion of South Cheyenne to Clay Huntington Way. Clay was a tireless supporter of our community and because of his efforts Tacoma is a better place.”

Dan Peterson, an official scorekeeper for major league baseball, wrote, “I was lucky enough to know Clay Huntington over the past few years. As one of the official scorekeepers for Major League Baseball at Safeco Field, I sat right in front of Clay when he made one of his frequent pilgrimages north on I-5 to see the Mariners play. He was always a pleasure to talk to — whether it was about the teams on the field in front of us, the Rainiers, our common background in radio or anything else. He loved baseball, obviously, but I was always struck by how much he seemed to simply love life. He was one of those rare people that seemed to be fully alive and enjoying every moment of every day. I can’t claim to have known him well or known him long, but that impression of Clay will stay with me forever. At the risk of sounding trite (at least for anybody that didn’t know him), Clay truly was an inspiration. I would love to drive to the stadium he helped create on Clay Huntington Way.”

Jason Puckett, Sports Director of the ‘Ian Furness Show’ on 950-AM KJR, wrote, “Please rename the street for Clay Huntington. Clay was a great man who took time out to make everyone feel welcomed and special. He was truly a kind soul.”

“I have known Clay Huntington for many years and he’s always been the greatest man — so kind and humble,” wrote Tacoma resident Fran King. “To name the street after him is good news. I can’t imagine anyone opposing it.”

“Nobody is more deserving of having a road into Cheney Stadium named after him than Clay Huntington,” wrote Tacoma resident Dean Haner. “He was instrumental in the successes that have taken place at Cheney Stadium and as one of the founders of the TAC, no one has done more for Tacoma area athletics than Clay.”

“I am excited we’re doing this,” said Deputy Mayor Joe Lonergan before City Council unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday. “I had the opportunity to be out on what is for the last time Cheyenne the other day, and see the work that has been done. It is a now beautiful street and certainly fitting that we are putting a great name on a great street.”

“A few weeks ago, I announced the choice for ‘Tacoma Reads Together’ and we picked ‘Shoeless Joe’ as the book,” said Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “That was not a coincidence. About a year and a half ago, I was approached about the naming possibility and as it started to gain momentum, I thought it would be nice to have three events happen simultaneously: the reading of ‘Shoeless Joe’; opening night at the Rainiers; and the renaming of Cheyenne Street to Huntington Way.

“This was a person who loved sports and community and had the audacity to dream big and those are important to Tacoma in many ways,” added Strickland. “It signifies in many ways why Tacoma is a great city.”

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Tacoma City Council committee OKs Clay Huntington Way (03/07/12) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2126987&more=0

Support grows for Clay Huntington Way (01/26/12) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2105118&more=0

Public hearing planned for Huntington Way (12/29/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2092422&more=0

Group wants street named after late Tacoma sports broadcaster Huntington (12/12/11) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2084058&more=0