There’s hope for baseball yet
Can’t help but imagine what a big league ballpark could do for downtown Las Vegas
When I look at the transformation worn-out or never-had-a-chance neighborhoods have had after baseball stadiums were built there, I get that glimmer of hope that resides in all baseball fans.
Two decades ago in my old hometown of Denver, we always avoided going downtown. Too dirty. Too scary. Too risky.
But look at the area they call LoDo (for Lower Downtown) now. It is the home of Coors Field, one of the finest baseball venues in the country. Restaurants and retail shops sprouted around it. The area is a bustling center of commerce today and an example of what a well-done baseball stadium can do for a run-down area.
It’s the same story with Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And Petco Park near San Diego’s Gaslamp District. And Safeco Field in Seattle. And even Northern Nevada’s home of the Reno Aces.
So it’s really no surprise that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority hit the brakes when it was asked to delay action on a lease agreement for the Las Vegas 51s this month.
Cashman Field, once a gem of Minor League Baseball, is a tired facility that can’t keep a major league partner happy.
The Las Vegas Triple-A franchise had a dream deal as a minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the major league team Las Vegans identify with most because of its regional appeal and star power. Because Los Angeles is only a one-hour flight away, Las Vegas was a perfect partner with the Dodgers, and local fans loved the affiliation.
But the Dodgers moved their top farm team to greener pastures — Albuquerque, if you can believe that — because that city’s stadium has better training and conditioning facilities.
A while back, the city sought proposals to transform Cashman Center — the stadium, theater and convention venue — into something better to generate traffic to the downtown area. The LVCVA manages the facility, but it’s on city ground. The lease agreement with the baseball team promises to give the 51s a new place to play if the stadium is demolished.
City officials would love to see a traffic magnet on the Cashman Center grounds. But the city also has big league dreams, and officials know they stand a better chance of hosting a National Basketball Association or National Hockey League team in a new arena than a Major League Baseball franchise with a stadium. So, for now, the 51s are what we have.
So why would a partnership that includes the Howard Hughes Corp. want to buy the 51s?
Probably because they’ve seen what Coors Field has done for Denver and what Aces Park has done for Reno. Attach a few restaurants and appealing retail outlets to the stadium — something the Howard Hughes people could do well — and you have a successful traffic generator.
The only question now is will it be downtown or, perhaps, in Summerlin where interest in jump-starting the stalled mall project has been renewed?
I can’t wait to see what happens next.