After several physical breakdowns in 2015, Pacific Coast League president Branch Rickey III questions whether the rapidly deteriorating Cashman Field, home of the Las Vegas 51s, is a long-term option for his circuit.
Multiple incidents in the last few years, including some large-scale sewage issues, have impacted 51s games. And while team owners Howard Hughes Corp. and Play Ball Owners Group have pitched new-ballpark plans over the past few years, including recent news about a proposed Henderson ballpark, the team is still mired at Cashman Field. To say that Cashman Field is a challenging venue is an understatement: it lack the development facilities MLB teams desire, and it lacks the fan-friendly amenities found in new and renovated facilities in cities like Tacoma, Reno or El Paso. All this led Rickey to address the issue with landlord Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) and warn that inaction could cost Las Vegas a PCL team:
“That particular problem is representative of what are more regular and pervasive infrastructure issues,” Rickey wrote. “The salient point is that the Cashman facility has deteriorated. To assure it will be ready for play beyond 2017 and 2018 might force an expenditure of many tens of millions of dollars and still not provide an optical long-term solution.”
The commissioner was swinging a leaded bat in the on-deck circle. He was only getting warmed up.
“It needs to be faced that Cashman’s days of reliable use are well behind it, a conclusion not limited to experts in Las Vegas. The baseball community also knows it and to such a degree that the big league teams in proximity to Las Vegas have opted for Triple-A affiliations in far less appropriate markets.”
I believe he might have been referring to the Padres and Dodgers.
“The playing surface, dressing rooms, trainer’s rehab areas, family waiting rooms, concession stands, restrooms, are all ongoing at-risk areas …”
The response from LVCVA president Rossi Ralenkotter: the authority loses $5 million annually on the Cashman Field lease (doubtful) and that repairs to the facility have been ongoing. But those are just bandaids, really: the total lack of meaningful upgrades to what should be a jewel in Minor League Baseball is now catching up with both the team and the LVCVA. Pro baseball has become an afterthought in Las Vegas.
There’s no doubt Las Vegas can be a leading MiLB market, under the right circumstances. And there’s no doubt Rickey will work to keep it a PCL market: with easy airline access and the market size, it’s a great fit for the circuit. But it may take the loss of baseball — a la Albuquerque or Portland — to force some sort of action on the ballpark front, because Cashman Field doesn’t fit in anyone’s long-term plans.
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