Friday, April 19, 2013 | 2 a.m.
My routine following Thursday’s Las Vegas 51s baseball game surely resembled that of several fans in attendance for the club’s popular Dollar Beer Night promotion.
You just don’t leave Cashman Field in downtown, you quickly evacuate with hopes of arriving home safe. You leave before the game ends no matter how close the score, briskly walk to the car and head for safety with hopes of not having to stop for a red light.
Cashman Field is located in one of the worst neighborhoods in Las Vegas, just north of redevelopment that is transforming the area near the Fremont Street Experience to make it semi-enjoyable, and one of the many reasons why the outdated stadium is no longer a suitable home for the 51s.
Potential new owners of the franchise feel the same way.
The Howard Hughes Corp. and partner Steve Mack are close to buying the 51s with plans of moving them to a new stadium in Summerlin. It’s about time.
Sure, other stadium proposals have seemed too good to be true in recent years, and while financing for the $50-60 million proposal is still not certain, there are reasons to be excited. The new ownership group is only buying the team to move them, and the land the stadium would be built on — near the Red Rock Resort by Charleston Boulevard and the 215 Beltway — is already owned by Howard Hughes Corp.
I’m like most and won’t believe it until I see it, but my interest is definitely piqued. A new state-of-the-art stadium in a desirable part of town, and with nearby retail and dining as part of the plan, is long overdue.
“If our efforts in this complicated transaction succeed, families not just in Summerlin but across the valley will have a wonderful new venue in which to enjoy affordable professional baseball,” the potential new owners wrote in a statement last week.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s time to move.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Cashman Field. As kids, we’d sit behind the outfield fences and wait for Kevin McReynolds to blast a home run so we could fight over the ball. We’d also test the speed of our fastball on the concourse near left field with the Fastest Gun in the West game, hoping the radar gun showed a faster speed than the kid you waited in line next to for 30 minutes.
But none of that exists at the current Cashman Field, robbing a new generation of children of a true experience at the ballpark. Las Vegas deserves better.
It pains me to say this, but look at Reno as an example. Aces Ballpark opened in 2009 and was built with rental car tax money, helping transform downtown and bringing much energy to the area when the Triple-A Reno Aces play. Fans eat and drink at nearby establishments before and after games, literally shutting down part of downtown.
That’s how Las Vegas would be if the plans for Summerlin become a reality. At the earliest, the 51s could play in Summerlin for the 2015 season. They have a lease with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which owns Cashman Field, to play here another eight seasons as a safety net.
There are still some, mostly those living in Henderson, who aren’t too jazzed about the team relocating to a noncentral part of the valley and say they won’t support the team if they move from the dog pit of downtown.
That’s understandable, but ridiculous.
Don’t let your fears of having to drive a few extra miles to get to Summerlin stop you from feeling good about the future of minor league baseball in Las Vegas.
After all, anything is better than the current arrangement. Just ask the players.
Cashman Field is the 27th oldest stadium out of 30 Triple-A facilities and barely serviceable. It’s always comical walking past the 51s players taking batting practice minutes before the game in outdoor cages adjacent to the east parking lot.
Come July and August, when it’s more than 100 degrees before games, you can’t ask professional players to practice outside with misters attempting to keep them cool. This is Triple-A, not Little League. But until the franchise gets a new home, it will be viewed as just that.
Big league teams don’t want to send their players on rehabilitation assignment at Cashman Field because it lacks the proper amenities. Fans aren’t jumping over each other to watch a game here because of the sketchy location.
Imagine walking with friends to a nearby bar after Dollar Beer Night to continue an evening of socializing. It sure beats leaving the game after the seventh inning stretch to avoid the pitfalls of downtown.