The young boy slides a baseball glove onto his left hand. His dad carries a $1 beer in his right. It’s just before first pitch on the first day of May, and it’s a picture-perfect night for baseball at Cashman Field. Weather: 84 degrees and clear. Wind: slight. Field: immaculate. Before the last out is recorded, some 5,797 fans will have passed through the turnstiles to watch the Las Vegas 51s close out a 12-game homestand with a 19-2 rout of the Reno Aces—a victory that boosted the 51s’ record to 20-8, by far the best in the 16-team Pacific Coast League.
The next morning, some 15 miles northwest of Cashman Field’s Downtown home, construction workers resume digging and welding and hammering away at the Shops at Summerlin, an open-air, 106-acre shopping complex scheduled to be completed this fall. Adjacent to the construction site sits another large plot of land, this one untouched, but reserved … as the home of the Las Vegas 51s … someday … we think.
May 13 marks the one-year anniversary that our city’s oldest professional sports franchise was sold to the Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club, a consortium consisting of three private investors and the Howard Hughes Corp. (which develops Summerlin). A news release issued that day stated, in part, that the new owners would be “exploring options to move the 51s from outmoded Cashman Field, one of the oldest ballparks in the [Pacific Coast] League, to a new facility within the Summerlin master-planned community.”
In the nearly 52 weeks since that announcement, the ownership group has said next to nothing about the 51s’ seemingly inevitable move to a new, still-unplanned and unfinanced stadium in Summerlin. Ditto the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which would stand to be the big loser if the ballclub bolts for the ’burbs, seeing that it leases Cashman Field to the 51s, with the current agreement running until 2022.
We pressed both entities for a status update, asking to speak with the principals involved. In return, we received the following very prepared—and very ambiguous—statements:
Says Dawn Christensen, senior director of communications for the LVCVA: “We are very happy to have our long-term relationship with professional baseball, both as the home of the New York Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s, and as the host for Big League Weekend. We have an agreement in place for the Las Vegas 51s to lease Cashman until 2022. The 51s are off to a strong start, and we look forward to another winning season at Cashman Field.”
Says Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations for the Hughes Corp.: “While we cannot share any specifics at this time, we are making progress. The potential for both redevelopment of the current Cashman site as well as the building of a new stadium in Summerlin is strong. When completed, these projects would prove beneficial to the City of Las Vegas, Clark County, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Summerlin and Southern Nevada’s baseball fans.”
It’s tempting to give Warden the benefit of the doubt when he says, “when completed.” Except even the most enthusiastic optimist rolls his eyes these days when the words “new stadium” and “Las Vegas Valley” collide, particularly when such a venue would involve public money, which everyone knows the 51s’ owners are hoping to secure.
And so we wait for somebody, anybody, to throw the next pitch. And that “we” refers to the Valley’s baseball fans; Summerlin residents (including those who would welcome the team with open arms and those who for the past year have been waving their “NIMBY” flags); and those invested in Downtown’s Cultural Corridor (think the Mormon Fort, the Neon Museum, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and the Cultural Corridor Theatre Center, all of which could take a serious hit if Cashman Center loses its main tenant).
Perhaps by the time the Summerlin group reaches its second birthday, we’ll have some concrete answers. Then again, one thing has always separated baseball from every other sport: There is no clock. The game ends when it ends.