LAS VEGAS, NV – Las Vegas’ transformation into a major player in the national sporting scene (the region has already successfully lured popular NFL team the Oakland Raiders into the fold, come 2020), continues to chug along as a home-town Pacific Coast League baseball team recently announced they have broken ground on a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility sure to attract many new fans in the near future.
Minor League Baseball the Las Vegas 51s – named after the infamous Area 51 military base located 80 miles north of Vegas – broke ground on Friday, February 13 on the Las Vegas Ballpark, a $150 million, 10,000-seat stadium located in Summerlin, with construction due to be completed in time for the start of the 51s’ 2019 season.
In April 2013, the 51s – formerly known as the Las Vegas Stars until they were re-named in 2001 – were purchased by Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC, a joint venture of Howard Hughes Corp. and Play Ball Owners Group. The group’s intention was to eventually move the 51s to a new stadium in Summerlin. In October 2017, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved a 20-year, $80 million naming rights agreement to help pay for a new $150 million ballpark, which is expected to include 22 suites, a center field pool, kids’ zone, and several bars. The stadium will be owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation.
The team won their only division title in 2002, with the team posting the best record in the league at 85–59, but they lost to the eventual PCL champion Edmonton Trappers, three games to one. In 2012, the 51s signed a Player Development Contract with the New York Mets through the 2016 season.
The 51s have played out of Cashman Field Las Vegas since 1983, which has a capacity of 9,334 people; the decision to move to a brand-new home stadium was based on a number of factors, with most of them revolving around the age of the facility. Considered far behind the times, Cashman Field had fallen into disrepair in recent years, with the field, bullpens and clubhouse criticized by players as being “second class” and “decrepit.” The stadium also has very limited training facilities.
The final straw, however, fell in 2015, when the stadium’s sewage system backed up during an actual game, causing raw sewage – including actual fecal matter and other potentially infectious materials – to flow into the dugouts, driving the team out onto the playing field; it’s a problem that players and team owners say has yet to be fully rectified, with manager Wally Backman expressing concerns that the incident could repeat at any time. The numerous issues eventually drove team president and chief operating officer Don Logan to publicly declare his embarrassment to have the 51s associated with Cashman Field in any way.
“It’s disappointing that Vegas has the worst facility in our league when we have such a great town with the greatest hotels, the greatest dining, the greatest shopping,” he said. “It’s not becoming of this community to have a place like this.”
Come 2019 and the completion of the Las Vegas Ballpark, however, the Las Vegas 51s – and their fans – will finally have a new stadium with cutting edge, modern amenities that they can be proud to call home.
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