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Las Vegas MLB Efforts Could Affect Aviators’ Future

Henderson rendering

Any successful effort to bring Major League Baseball to the Las Vegas area would likely displace the Las Vegas Aviators (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), though a potential shift in the market’s baseball landscape is by no means imminent.

A growing sports market that is home to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and will soon add the NFL’s relocating Raiders, Las Vegas has been speculated as a potential MLB home. News of a proposal to bring an MLB franchise was uncovered this summer, when it was learned that officials in the suburb of Henderson had pitched Arizona Diamondbacks ownership on a potential ballpark that would be surrounded by mixed-use development. Discussions, which evolved into talks conducted under a non-compete clause, came after the D-Backs reached a settlement with Maricopa County that would allow the team to look for a new home either in the Valley of the Sun or elsewhere after the end of the 2022 season.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas is undergoing a surge in interest in baseball locally, thanks to the success of the Aviators and their new Las Vegas Ballpark. Located in Summerlin, Las Vegas Ballpark provided the franchise with a new home after it spent years seeking a replacement for Cashman Field, ultimately setting the tone for a successful 2019 season that allowed the Aviators to win our Team of the Year award and Las Vegas Ballpark to be crowned Ballpark of the Year.

Given the recent speculation surrounding MLB and Las Vegas, there are some questions about what would happen to the Aviators if plans for a new MLB team and ballpark in the region moved forward. Pacific Coast League Pacific Coast League president Branch Rickey III recently discussed the process that would have to be followed to place an MLB team in the Las Vegas area, while noting that it is unlikely that MLB and Triple-A franchises would be located within the same market. Still, there are plenty of hurdles that any MLB effort would have to clear, including the completion of plans for a new ballpark. More from the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“There’s a process by which Major League Baseball acquires a territory,” Rickey said of baseball’s Rule 52, which states that a major league team wishing to relocate within a 15-mile radius of an existing minor league club must acquire those rights through a formal notification….

“If a Triple-A team is successful, it’s going to subtract from the success of a major league club,” he said. “So Major League Baseball does not want a Triple-A team within the (same) metropolitan area.”

Were it to happen, $150 million Las Vegas Ballpark would become obsolete. It was not built with the infrastructure to expand to the major league specification and is restricted by its downtown Summerlin location. Obtaining the land and financing for a new ballpark could further delay the arrival of major league baseball, Rickey said.

While speculation about MLB to Las Vegas is likely to continue, there are still many unknowns surrounding that possibility. Negotiations between Henderson and the D-Backs began last year before stalling, and D-Backs ownership is clearly leaning toward a long-term solution in Arizona–either by way of a new ballpark in the Valley of the Sun, or a renovation to downtown Phoenix’s Chase Field. Additionally, MLB has not announced plans for expansion, and is unlikely to do so until several existing facility issues in the league are resolved. There are also bound to be questions about the appetite for a new MLB team and ballpark in Las Vegas, which currently features USL Championship, WNBA, and NHL clubs, will soon add NFL, and is emerging as a bonafide contender for a future MLS expansion slot.

Its role as a growing sports market is likely to make Las Vegas speculated as potential MLB home well into the future. In the meantime, however, the Aviators provide the market with a successful Triple-A operation and ballpark that is well positioned going forward.

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