Yesterday the Las Vegas Aviators announced two Big League weekends during spring training next year. The first, on February 29 & March 1, will feature the A’s hosting the Cleveland Indians. The following weekend, March 7-8, will have the Chicago Cubs hosting the Cincinnati Reds. The games will be played at Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin (see gallery below).
The newly scheduled games are in addition to the existing Cactus League slate, which makes the new games all split-squad affairs. That’s good to know for those planning to attend while expecting to see certain stars. Your chances are 50/50 on that count.
Last May I visited Las Vegas Ballpark, which is located in the suburb of Summerlin, at the west edge of the valley. It’s 10 miles from the Strip, located down the street from Red Rock, one of the many locals casinos in the area. It is by far the best, swankiest AAA ballpark I’ve ever attended, though that compliment comes with one major caveat. If you remember the history of Raley Field, when it was developed there was discussion about how it could be built for easy future expansion to a MLB-sized facility. A huge rainstorm during the winter of construction nixed those plans and delayed the eventual opening of the ballpark. Raley Field is still nice, yet decidedly a AAA ballpark. The same goes for Las Vegas Ballpark and First Tennessee Park in Nashville.
Maybe events like these are ways to showcase Vegas or Nashville for future expansion or relocation. Problem is that the venues’ relative size (10,000 seats) makes that showcase extremely limited. It’s a long way from 10,000 seats (the game I attended was sold out) to a 30,000+ domed stadium that will have to be placed much closer to downtown as opposed to a suburb in order to better capture the market’s population. Not to mention the financing part, which thanks to the Raiders’ stadium, shuts off a major public funding source. Beyond that, some compensation is due to the Aviators, who would themselves need relocation and whose ownership group owns the Summerlin ballpark. That’s the case whether a new Vegas ballpark is built near the Strip, in Summerlin, or in Henderson as was discussed a few months ago with the D-backs.
Allegiant Stadium, which is approaching $2 billion in construction cost, is clearly on the minds of East Bay fans who feel spurned by the Raiders. Despite that very recent pain, that’s no reason for Oakland to give up its bargaining position when it comes to the A’s. Last month I was rooting for the lawsuit to come to fruition as it could put the Coliseum land sale issue to rest. That reckoning begins tomorrow. Regardless of the outcome, MLB isn’t in the position to decide to open up Vegas to any team overnight. For Vegas to happen for the Raiders required some serious moving of mountains. For the A’s and A’s fans, this is gonna be a bumpy ride. The time for pearl-clutching is not here yet, not even close.
As a Vegas resident, lifelong A’s fan (and Aviators season-ticket holder), I’d submit that the Aviators and the Ballpark are owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation. They’re not so much about drillbits, airplanes or casinos anymore as they are about real estate and development, but it’s still a $4.5 billion company. If anyone could buy the A’s, upgrade the ballpark to major-league level and subsidize the project with the residential and commercial building to make it pencil, it’s them.
P.S. The current location of the ballpark is much more attractive than downtown because Summerlin is where the fish (locals with expendable income) are. Only tourists go downtown, and only if the Strip is sold out or too pricey.
@Ed – I don’t doubt that Hughes has the resources when it comes down to it. The problems are mostly the size and footprint of the site, which at under 8 acres severely limits the amount of potential expansion. They would essentially have to build a completely new ballpark there, especially when you account for the additional infrastructure needed for the (retractable) roof.