After years of ignoring the issue, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman wants to see the owners of the Las Vegas 51s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) fix up Cashman Field — but came up short of offering city assistance.
The new owners of the 51s — Howard Hughes Corporation and Play Ball Owners Group — have announced plans for a new ballpark in suburban Summerlin near Red Rock Resort, anchoring a new lifestyle development from Hughes. The new ballpark comes after years and years of efforts by GM Don Logan and previous owners to either replace Cashman Field or build a new ballpark elsewhere. It’s not as though plenty of connected folks have studied the effort (Tony Hsioh, the charismatic founder of Zappos.com who is working to revitalize downtown Las Vegas, reportedly sniffed around the 51s and Cashman as a development project, but ultimately passed), but in the end Hughes and Play Ball put together a workable plan to keep baseball alive in the Vegas area.
It’s not that Vegas is a bad market, it’s that Cashman Field is a wretched facility that doesn’t come close to meeting MiLB ballpark guidelines (no cages within the ballpark and a weight room more appropriate for rookie ball) and is right next to one of Las Vegas’s worst neighborhoods. Putting money into Cashman Field has never been a priority for the city — as a matter of fact, the city wants to use the entire Cashman area (which includes an exhibition center as well) for redevelopment. Despite all of this, Goodman would like to see Hughes and Play Ball put their development money into Cashman Field (where payback is dubious at best) instead of a safe bet in Summerlin. From the Las Vegas Sun:
“Since this has become more of a discussionable item in the public, we have had quite a few longtime ticket holders calling up and saying, ‘We love having our baseball down in the heart of the city,’” Goodman said last week. “And if you look around the country, they are moving more and more arenas into the hearts of the cities, not the suburbs. So, there is an interest of the public and resident public to keep (the stadium) where it is.”
Even if Cashman Field were upgraded to include the basic player amenities it lacks — the batting cage is outdoors in the parking lot and the weight room is so small the team issues players memberships to a local health club — the stadium still would be located in a struggling area of downtown that team officials have previously said was a key reason for wanting to move.
What’s lacking in Goodman’s regrets: no real effort to keep the team, no offer of financial assistance to fix up or replace the ballpark. It’s a good political move for Goodman to express these concerns: it costs her nothing and wins some admiration from baseball fans who oppose change. In the end, however, it’s a pretty meaningless gesture.
RELATED STORIES: Sale of Las Vegas 51s finalized; new owners pitch Summerlin ballpark; Future of Vegas baseball in Summerlin?; Will new 51s lease yield new Las Vegas ballpark?; Short-term Cashman Field lease approved; future of ballpark still in doubt; Vegas delays 51s lease; future of Cashman Field in doubt
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