Should the Las Vegas 51s Make the Move to Summerlin?

I didn’t have much of an opinion on this subject until I read some of the comments Pacific Coast League President Branch B. Rickey made when positioning the team for a move to a new suburban stadium. When Cashman Field was built in 1983, it was one of the premier stadiums in the minor leagues. The Downtown facility, nestled along the “cultural corridor” long before there was such a thing, even hosted the Triple-A World Series from 1998-2000. But the shine has dulled. It’s not necessarily that Cashman is run-down; it’s that the promise of sparkly new stadiums—like the one in Reno—tends to look make old stadiums look even older.

Rickey sounds prototypically snobbish when he discusses an as-yet-unbuilt facility in the “safe, clean” and “wholesome” neighborhood of Summerlin, where, he posits, families will fill seats that fail to fill in Downtown. I cannot help but wonder if this is a jab at Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s never-materialized intent to buy the 51s and keep them Downtown. Rickey’s attitude is particularly interesting, since the proposed new stadium site sits next to Red Rock Resort. As I understand it, people smoke, drink, swear and gamble right inside that building.

Oh, the horror!

It’s unnecessary to kick the neighborhood that has successfully (and wholesomely!) hosted the team for 30 years. It’s also disingenuous to shroud the financial motivation for the proposed move in crafty, family-friendly imagery. If Rickey had said, “There are more families willing to buy $8 hot dogs in Summerlin than Downtown,” that would have at least been transparent (and, likely, true).

Dozens of half-baked stadium ideas have been floated in Las Vegas, including opportunities to either remodel Cashman or build a new minor league facility, the latter lost in Mayor Oscar Goodman’s push for the Expos and Marlins.

But the irony of Downtown potentially losing baseball is particularly strong today, when sports teams across the West are helping cities reclaim their downtowns (think San Diego, the Padres’ Petco Park and the East Village neighborhood around it). Just as our own Downtown revitalization is reaching critical mass, it may lose one of its longest-standing institutions.

Oh, well. The last time Summerlin and Downtown went to battle over a civic institution, it was about who would host the new performing arts center. And we all know who won that one.

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