If ballpark gets built, hang onto your wallet

While on assignment Sunday, I was out in Summerlin. Way out in Summerlin. Near Red Rock Resort, near where the 51s’ new owners propose to build a new ballpark.

Before long, I was driving around in circles at one of those traffic roundabouts. Roundabouts remind me of Mercedes-Benzes and Lexuses. Or Lexi, if that is the plural. They remind me of Neiman Marcus and Brazilian steakhouses where slow-roasted picanha is carved right at your table. They remind me of a lot of things that cost a lot of money.

There were palm trees around this roundabout. I could hear people who drive Mercedes-Benzes and Lexi frolicking in a swimming pool.

Man, it’s really beautiful around Red Rock Resort.

This is why I am wary of the 51s’ new owners building a ballpark out there. It’s almost too nice.

When I think of a minor league ballpark, I think of cheap seats and cheap hotdogs and a reasonably priced bag of peanuts. Tossing the shells wherever you please. I think of $1 beers on Thursday night. I also think of hairy guys taking their shirts off in the bleachers for some reason.

I had lunch at Panda Express at the Red Rock food court. They filled my bowl only halfway with chow mein noodles, threw about four honey walnut shrimp on top and said it would be $10. I was told to get my own plastic fork.

The sign in front of Rocks Lounge had a whole list of things you couldn’t wear if you wanted to go inside. If you wanted to wear shorts, they had to be dress shorts. You can’t throw peanut shells wherever you please at Rocks Lounge.

A video was playing outside, which was as close as I was going to get to inside, because my shorts came from Target. The video was promoting acts that perform inside the lounge.

One appeared to be the spray-tan guy who was in Zowie Bowie, or stole the name. I immediately conjured an image of him throwing out the first pitch with his pinky rings and his shirt unbuttoned to the navel at the new Ballpark at Summerlin Centre, and I shuddered.

Guys who throw out the first pitch at minor league ballparks should not look like the Zowie Bowie guy. They should look slightly disheveled, like Andy Kaye of KOMP 92.3, who usually does the first-pitch honors at Cashman Field.

Also, I am circumspect of “Center” being spelled “Centre.” Anytime you put the “R” in front of the “E” it usually winds up costing extra. Like in Montreal.

And have you noticed that every artist’s rendering of the proposed 51s ballpark shows a shopping mall and not a ballpark?

At least when that Chris Milam guy was trying to pull a fast real-estate grab disguised as a stadium project, he had an artist render something that sort of looked like a stadium project, and also sort of looked like giant bedpans. A lot of people fell for it.

Don Logan and the 51s brain trust are some of my favorite sports people. They were here when the Dodgers took their affiliation from Las Vegas back to Albuquerque, N.M., after the people of Albuquerque remodeled the old ballpark near Interstate 25 and downtown, the one that looked almost like Cashman Field.

They must have put in some climate-controlled batting cages, because the Dodgers seem happy in Albuquerque.

Isotopes Park is gorgeous. It is so gorgeous that it may be another 20 years before the Dodgers demand the people of Albuquerque build them another new ballpark, or they’ll move their Triple-A team to Lodi, where John Fogerty Jr. supposedly is putting a group of investors together. Or so they will say.

The news release confirming the sale of the 51s called Cashman Field “outmoded.” It said it will be “exploring options” about building a new ballpark near the 215 beltway and Charleston near Red Rock casino.

I also recall the Stevens Baseball Group exploring options to build a new ballpark. Instead, it bought Fitzgeralds casino downtown for an undisclosed price. In 2001, The Fitz sold for $149 million, if you need a reference point.

You could have built three new minor league ballparks for that kind of money. You could have built a new one downtown, next to the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, where it belongs. (Though if you live in Summerlin, like baseball and have figured out the roundabouts, you’ve got to be loving these new rumors.)

You could have built it with an Art Deco facade with the 17-story bell tower serving as batter’s eye, which is what former Mayor Oscar Goodman envisioned.

Instead, the first thing the Stevens Baseball Group did was announce a $15 million renovation of The Fitz. That seemed to make more financial sense than a climate-controlled batting cage.

The batting cage at Cashman Field remains outside, in Mother Nature’s control. A couple of the 51s were taking practice cuts at 3:25 p.m. Monday before the game against Albuquerque. The message board out front said it was 103 degrees. They were working up a hell of a sweat.

Five huge banners atop the first-base side on the press-box level proclaimed a new Galleria at Sunset was coming, Fall 2013.

There were no banners indicating when a new ballpark might be coming.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski