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Vegas sports complex moves forward — but baseball now on the back burner

Proposed Las Vegas sports complex

A proposed sports complex in the Las Vegas area was green-lighted for future design studies and land negotiation by the Henderson City Council, but a new ballpark is now a secondary part of the project and not slated to be part of the initial construction.

When developer Chris Milam announced a purchase of the Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) in May, baseball was a centerpiece of the proposed development, with a plan for a 51s ballpark that could be expanded potentially in the future for an MLB team. But that’s been changed, as Milam has decided to deemphasize baseball and walked away from a purchase of the 51s; the team is back on the market.

In the proposal to the city council last night, reps for Milam’s development firm, Las Vegas National Sports Complex LLC, said a new 17,500-seat arena and a 25,000-seat soccer stadium would be first on the agenda, with an initial price tag of $1.3 billion. There’s a race to come to the Vegas market with a new arena, and the new stadium is envisioned for an MLS team. Both would open in 2014.

Down the road: a 63,000-seat stadium for an NFL team and a new ballpark for the 51s or a different team. No word on when these facilities could open, and there appear to be no guarantees they ever will open.

Why put off the ballpark, considering there’s potentially a return on investment with a new 51s home? We’re guessing Milam made the decision to push the most lucrative projects — MLS is a good bet for the Las Vegas area, and a new arena can be profitable with or without an NBA or NHL team — and put off the more speculative parts of the project. It appears that baseball is now an afterthought in this development.

Vegas is a tough market for minor-league baseball, mostly due to the middling condition and location of Cashman Field just north of downtown Vegas. The ballpark is basic, to be sure, and could probably be upgraded and improved with the support of city officials. But Vegas is a city with a mayor in pursuit of major-league sports, whether it be MLB or the NBA, and there’s little appetite for improving existing facilities when there’s always something bigger on the horizon. That means the 51s get little in the way of love from the city. Which is too bad, because the city is a fairly important one in Minor League Baseball: Because virtually every city in the league is served by airlines flying out of McCarran International Airport, the city is a hub of sorts for the Pacific Coast League, a league stretching from Tacoma to Tucson to Memphis to Des Moines. But with the team on the market and a new ballpark on the back burner, there’s little potential for any changes to the Vegas baseball scene any time soon.

Edited for clarity.

RELATED STORIES: Milam ballpark proposal taking shape; Milam buying 51s; team will be part of new development; Stakes high for 51s in Vegas stadium site; IDM pitches new Vegas ballpark as part of larger development


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