Downtown moviemaking could help spur 51s journey to Summerlin


In case you hadn’t noticed, Senate Bill 165, sponsored in the last legislative session by Democratic Sen. Aaron Ford, was approved, offering tax credits to the film industry.

So what does this mean for Summerlin? It could mean a lot. That’s if Mayor Carolyn Goodman and other members of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority can convince movie moguls to back up the huge trailers that carry their filmmaking equipment and drive directly to Las Vegas. More to the point, those trucks would be unloading their wares downtown, at the Cashman complex.

And, if the moviemakers bite into the tempting tax relief apple that Nevada is offering, it could eventually convert all 57 acres of the Cashman complex — which includes Cashman Field — into a Las Vegas version of Hollywood.

Of course, if that were to occur, where would the Las Vegas 51s play baseball? Well, the chances are pretty good that they would play in a modernized stadium in Summerlin, fulfilling a plan proposed last summer by the new owners of the team.

Specifically, the new stadium would be situated within the 200 acres that are still vacant but are contiguous to the site of the Shops at Summerlin, which is scheduled to open this year. It would be just southeast of Red Rock Resort, all of which are part of a dynamic area that will be known as downtown Summerlin.

Before you pooh-pooh the thought, understand that movie notable Nicolas Cage, supported by other representatives of the film industry, spent considerable time last spring explaining to the Nevada Legislature the economic advantages of enacting Senate Bill 165. The legislation would provide tax credits for the moviemakers, as well as tax credits for hiring Nevada residents.

“I know folks who have tried to put a studio here, but we can’t put the cart before the horse. We need to pass the bill,” Cage told the lawmakers in May.

Well, it has come to pass. And in her annual State of the City address in January, Goodman was effervescent about the prospects of the film industry coming to Las Vegas:

“A prominent piece of my campaign was to push for bringing film tax credits to Nevada,” she said. “Thanks to the efforts of freshman Sen. Aaron Ford from Las Vegas, and our friend and famed actor Nicolas Cage, who calls Las Vegas home — and so many others who worked on this — the state of Nevada is on board with a four-year pilot program offering tax credits to the film industry to try to bring motion pictures, television, cable and technology into our city.”

Tax credits are always a major incentive for business and industry leaders. But then what? Goodman went on to say:

“Of great interest for a film studio in our city is the Cashman complex. So we’re working very closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, on whose board I sit along with Councilman (Steve) Ross, to make a film studio a reality inside that center.

“I’m confident we’ll work out details and see a film studio start to take shape in 2014 in our city.”

That’s quite a turnaround from the indecisiveness of last summer, when talk of replacing Cashman Field met an air of uncertainty in the mayor’s office.

“If the 51s find the money to move, wonderful, then we get the 57 acres back,” Goodman said at the time.

But the meaning of Senate Bill 165 has changed the landscape. Now it could become more of a test of wills between the city and the new ownership of the 51s.

Talks since last summer have centered on money, specifically who would pay for a new stadium in Summerlin, irrespective of the fact that The Howard Hughes Corp., which owns half of the 51s, is willing to donate the land, valued at $40 million.

The city owns Cashman Field, which it built more than 30 years ago to accommodate the Pacific Coast League baseball franchise at a cost of $24 million. It is administered by the convention authority.

But times change. The cost of just constructing a replacement stadium in Summerlin has been estimated at $65 million.

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 most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.