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Parties privy to Cashman Field’s future in game of ‘chicken’

Any day now, you’ll be reading about baseballs flying out of ballparks all over Arizona and Florida. That’s because spring training is in the air — the time of year when every team in organized baseball is a winner.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the abbreviated replay of last year’s National League championship series that will be coming up soon, right here in Las Vegas. Yes, indeed, on March 31 and April 1, the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs will square off again, just as they did last October. Only, this time, it will be an exhibition series at Cashman Field, as a prelude to the start of the baseball season.

One week later, on April 7, the Las Vegas 51s will open its regular season against the defending Triple-A champion Fresno Grizzlies to inaugurate the 34th regular season of baseball at Cashman Field. That’s right, Cashman Field, the second-oldest stadium among the 30 teams in Triple-A baseball, and by far the oldest never to have been renovated since the day it opened in 1983.

Of course, this all leads us to the status of that super, state-of-the-art, 21st century ballpark that has been tossed around as a crowning touch for the back 200-acre lot at Downtown Summerlin. Well, we can honestly say that while the concept of a Summerlin baseball stadium is by no means a pipe dream, by all outward appearances, it presently lies in a dormant state.

That means nothing has changed, in spite of everything you may have read about converting Cashman Complex into a major league soccer facility and heaven knows what else. You may recall how a year ago, the city put out feelers to the public for suggestions on how to upgrade the Cashman site, something that could bring back more lucrative benefits to the city.

Soon afterward, Deputy City Manager Scott Adams said that while lots of recommendations were put forward, “many were lackluster in nature, and at this point, we’re in a holding pattern.” He added that “the primary issue is the baseball team.”

That’s because the 51s franchise, which is seeking public assistance in building a new stadium, has seven years remaining on its Cashman Field lease with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which owns the ballpark. The city owns the land under the facility, and with regard to the immediate future of Cashman Field, neither the ownership of the 51s, the city nor the LVCVA is ready to blink or budge. That said, the game of “chicken” is being played to its fullest.

Publicly, everyone in City Hall — from Mayor Carolyn Goodman on down — wishes the 51s baseball franchise, owned by The Howard Hughes Corp. and a group of businessmen, would move to Summerlin or anywhere else.

That’s because they have other plans for Cashman Complex, plans that have yet to be revealed. You could detect the hints from time to time. For example, at one point while the bubbly was being poured all over Fremont Street last New Year’s Eve, Mayor Goodman was being interviewed by Channel 3 meteorologist Kevin Janison about what to look forward to in 2016.

“Something exciting is going to happen at the Cashman Complex,” she told the TV viewers. A few breaths later, she went on to say, “I’m going to bring a major league team to Las Vegas if it’s the last thing I do.”

So what would you make of that? Well, one might have fully expected the mayor to elaborate on those remarks during her State of the City address last month. Uh, uh! Didn’t happen, other than a mild reference to the city being “in dialog on the future of the Cashman Complex.” But she did say, almost repeatedly, “We want to be a world-class city,” adding that “we’re not there yet.”

One might then ask, how do you hope to become a “world-class city” when your Triple-A baseball team is playing in a relic of a stadium? Of course, you might recall how things reached the height of disparagement one day last summer when sewage overflowed from Cashman’s 34-year-old plumbing, which only added to the stench.

— 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.

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