A recent spat over the future of baseball in Las Vegas has everything to do with development and nothing to do with baseball, as the future of the sport in Sin City may rest in a nearby suburb.
With the sale of the Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) certain -- Derek Stevens needs to sell after investing in casino operations -- and the potential new owners of the team, including Howard Hughes Corp., see baseball more as a development play than as an investment in America's Pastime. Fair enough: folks invest in baseball for a wide variety of reasons.
But the recent struggle over a new lease at Cashman Field was notable for the lack of baseball in the discussions. Once a top-level Minor League Baseball facility, Cashman Field is now arguably the worst ballpark in the Pacific Coast League, a venue where no MLB really wants to send players (the Mets ended up as 51s parent by default) and one worsened by years and years of neglect. An owner who was serious about baseball would have used lease negotiations as a way to extract some sorely needed ballpark improvements, but Hughes didn't; the bigger issue was the length of the lease.
That length has nothing to do with baseball: it has to do with a clause in the lease that promises the 51s a new ballpark should Cashman Field go away. And making Cashman Field go away is actually a joint goal of both the city and Hughes, as Las Vegas has opened up redevelopment of the entire Cashman complex up for discussion.
Increasingly there's discussion of the future of 51s ball being in the suburbs, not Vegas proper. Early enthusiasm from the likes of Tony Hsieh on a new downtown ballpark has diminished, and talk now centers on a Hughes development in the suburb of Summerlin. Makes sense: the demographics in Summerlin are very good and puts the team in an actual community. Hughes is putting together an urban area in Summerlin in hopes of creating a town center, and a ballpark could be a core part of it. The talk is not new, and we're probably many, many months before a ballpark plan could potentially take shape. Still, when it comes to the future of Las Vegas baseball, the talk is increasingly heavy on the suburbs.
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