51s' stadium could be crown jewel of 'downtown Summerlin'

One of the most dynamic undertakings in a valley that is well known for dynamic undertakings is beginning to take shape on more than 300 acres of undeveloped property in the heart of Summerlin.

Included in the village concept will be retail outlets, office buildings, townhouses, lots of restaurants, parking facilities, an assortment of entertainment and a proposed baseball stadium for the Las Vegas 51s that would seat up to 9,000.

The area, which may be commonly referred to as “downtown Summerlin,” runs along the Las Vegas Beltway and is bounded by Charleston Boulevard and Sahara Avenue. It’s southeast of Red Rock Resort.

The project is so big that it has been divided into two developments, according to Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations at The Howard Hughes Corp.

A tract of 106 acres contiguous to the Beltway and due south of Red Rock Resort is already under construction. Known as the Shops at Summerlin Centre, the development is expected to include more than 125 retail shops, anchored by Macy’s and Dillard’s department stores.

The second tract, of about 200 acres, is contiguous to and just east of the first tract. It is to contain townhouses, restaurants, parking, a variety of entertainment facilities and pedestrian walkways.

And if the stars and planets are aligned properly, the most modern baseball stadium in America “would become an integral part of our downtown Summerlin plan,” Warden said.

More than that, the stadium, which would allow the Pacific Coast League’s 51s to move from an antiquated Cashman Field, would serve as an economic booster for Clark County, Las Vegas and especially Summerlin. It would be a magnet for home buyers and office rentals, which, in turn, would help lure retailers. In all, it would stimulate new property taxes and sales taxes.

A consortium that recently purchased the 51s has proposed to build the stadium. The new owners include Hughes Corp., landowner of the site and developer of the 22,500-acre Summerlin master-planned community. The Hughes Corp. and Play Ball Owners Group, which includes investors Steve Mack, Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer, bought the 51s in May for $20 million.

In essence, the downtown Summerlin project is being planned along the same principle that has already placed Summerlin in the highest echelon of successful planned communities in the U.S. That principle is quite simple: Build it and they will come.

“There has been an economic resurgence in Summerlin,” Warden noted. “And we hope to keep it going by putting a baseball stadium here. It could be a viable part of the downtown Summerlin center that we envision.”

Strong endorsements for the new stadium have come from the principals of Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC, which is the name of the consortium that bought the 51s. Especially strong support for a stadium in Summerlin has come from Branch Rickey III, president of the Pacific Coast League, and Don Logan, president and chief operating officer of the 51s.

The Hughes Corp. said it would donate the land for the stadium, which is estimated to occupy up to 20 acres and is valued at about $40 million. The cost of building the facility has been estimated at $60 million, which is considerably more than the $24 million it took to construct Cashman Field more than 30 years ago.

“There are many ways it can be done,” Warden said. Asked whether the joint venture would seek public funding, he commented, “It’s too early to say anything about public money.”

Warden disagreed with some who have expressed concern about the site being inconvenient for patrons living as far away as Henderson.

“The notion that a stadium in Summerlin is too far away for thousands of fans is not accurate,” he said. “The proposed location is convenient for most of the valley, by way of the 215. They could get there from Green Valley, Anthem and Henderson in almost the same amount of time it would take to get to Cashman Field and without traffic light interference.”

As for fears of traffic clogging local streets, concerts at Red Rock Resort have drawn as many as 11,000 patrons without creating problems. That’s more than the seating capacity of the proposed stadium.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, “All For Nothing,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.