Unions protest tax proposal to build Summerlin ballpark

Opponents of the Las Vegas 51s’ bid to build a baseball park in Summerlin with public money used the entrance of a PGA event at TPC Summerlin Saturday morning for the first public protest of the proposal.

The Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council along with District Council 15 displayed large banners near the entrance of the private golf course with the messages: “51s Owners Asking Public to Pay $88 million” and “Why Should Public Pay $88 Million For New Stadium for Howard Hughes Corp.?”

Five men who were helping hold the banners declined to comment, explaining they were volunteers for the trades council and the union that displayed their logos in the corner of fliers being handed out to golf fans. The flier said, “Tell the Howard Hughes Corp. not to cheat taxpayers!” It advises people to call Howard Hughes Vice President of Development David Kautz.

The new 51s owners, officially called Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC, are a joint venture of the Howard Hughes Corp. and the Play Ball Owners Group, which includes Summerlin resident and businessman Steve Mack and fellow investors Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer. They closed on the $20 million purchase of the Triple A 51s from the Stevens Baseball Group on May 13. The 51s are the top minor league club of the New York Mets.

Mack, the public face of the ownership group, could not be reached for comment Saturday. Howard Hughes Corp. is the developer of the Summerlin community. Under the owners’ proposal, the company would donate the land for the ballpark. Mack estimated the property’s value at $40 million.

Mack told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this year that the owners want the city of Las Vegas, Clark County and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to team up to borrow $65 million in bonds to build a new ballpark on the Howard Hughes Corp. land just south and slightly west of the Red Rock resort. Mack said he is visiting the three shareholders to try and drum up support for the proposal.

The union’s anti-ballpark flier said Howard Hughes Corp. wants public money to pay for the new ballpark on its donated land and lease it from Clark County for $1 per year for 20 years while the public would have to pay $4.4 million a year to pay off the stadium construction debt.

The proposed ballpark would have 8,000 to 9,000 seats and be called The Ballpark at Summerlin Centre.

The owners argue that 30-year-old Cashman Field, the 51s’ current home just north of downtown, lacks the modern amenities of modern Triple A ballparks and that the location is not desirable to draw baseball fans.

The convention authority owns the Cashman venue, where the 51s paid $314,800 in rent for 2013. Last year, the team’s lease was extended until 2022.

Attempts to reach trades council and Council 15 officials for comment were unsuccessful Saturday.

The banners were set up along public sidewalks in front of the TPC Summerlin entrance. A Las Vegas police officer at the entrance said the banners were allowed because of “freedom of speech.”

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.