A look at Cashman Center’s 34-year history as it closes Tuesday — PHOTOS

Updated December 9, 2017 - 9:15 pm

And then there was one.

When Moscow Ballet dancers take their final bows after Tuesday’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” performance, the curtain will come down — not only on the performers but on Cashman Center itself.

Not Cashman Field; the adjacent downtown stadium will remain in action as the home of the Las Vegas Lights soccer team and, for one more season, the Las Vegas 51s baseball team. (The 51s are scheduled to move to a new Summerlin ballpark in 2019.)

After more than three decades, however, there will be no more events held at the adjacent Cashman Center. No more presidential visits — or presidential debates. No more citizenship ceremonies. No more graduations, dance recitals, musicals and concerts in the theater. No more expos, gift shows, meetings and conventions in the exhibit halls.

Las Vegas officials — who took control of the Cashman complex from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority last year — still are evaluating possibilities for the facility’s future.

As for Cashman’s past, the center has more than fulfilled its twin goals of bringing a minor-league baseball team to Las Vegas and providing “a home for public shows — craft shows, bridal expos and more,” along with “numerous community events like dance and music recitals and graduations,” according to LVCVA President Rossi Ralenkotter, who was the authority’s marketing chief when Cashman opened in 1983.

Some 34 years later, the community element played a role in “The Great Russian Nutcracker’s” visit, says producer Akiva Talmi, because the theater “is very well known and accessible to the local community.”

In the beginning, however, the theater didn’t even have lighting and sound systems, which were cut from the budget when Cashman opened in 1983 — thereby forcing groups who wanted to stage anything more complicated than a lecture to bring their own equipment.

Over the next five years, LVCVA made sound, lighting and backstage improvements, in turn attracting everything from Broadway tours (including such blockbusters as ”Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera”) to the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.

Despite LVCVA efforts, however, the 1,900-seat theater never quite caught on as a performance showcase. Unlike the exhibit and convention area, which provided an ideal venue for locals-oriented trade shows and expos. The Bridal Spectacular, for example, presented 52 shows at Cashman over a 26-year period, according to vice president Laura Covington, whose mother Debra Hansen launched the semi-annual show.

“My mom started it when I was 3 and my brother was 5,” Covington says of the family business. “Literally, we grew up in Cashman. For us, it’s like losing a home.”

Bridal Spectacular’s final Cashman bow was in August. Next year’s Bridal Spectacular will be at the Rio, Covington says, where it will be staged in “a little more than half the space — for the same price.”

Promoter Steve Powers decided that his 35th annual Craft Festival, held at Cashman last month, would be his last Las Vegas show.

After staging the Great American Comic Con Las Vegas at Cashman in 2016, Chandler Rice of Desert Winds Comic Books says “that’s where I expected to be for the next 10 years.”

Adds wife and partner Sharon Richardson, “We thought it was the perfect location. There really is no other place for locals to go.”

Event organizers and others protested the Cashman closure during April meetings with city officials, but “nobody really wanted to listen,” she says.

Which leaves Cashman regulars with their memories.

LVCVA’s Ralenkotter lists “welcoming (poet) Maya Angelou in 2007, as well as hosting the Democratic Primary debate in 2008” as top Cashman Center events.

“But I think the fondest memories for many locals,” Ralenkotter says, “will be seeing their kids perform on stage for recitals or walk across the stage for graduation.”

Cashman Center through the years

The Cashman Center site, originally part of a large parcel owned by Sen. William Clark (Clark County’s namesake), was intended as part of the development of a railroad between Southern California and Salt Lake City. Through the years, the land transferred to the Union Pacific Railroad and then to the Las Vegas Elks Club. Local developer Jim Cashman spearheaded an effort to build a baseball stadium with the Elks, which hosted semi-pro games in the 1940s. In the 1970s, the city of Las Vegas acquired the property; in 1981, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority took ownership and broke ground the next year on the current stadium and convention facility, honoring Cashman’s legacy by naming it for him.

By the numbers

$26 million: Initial investment

50 acres: Site size

534,000 square feet: Facility size

Exhibit space: 100,000 square feet

Meeting space: 17,500 square feet

Theater: 1,900 seats

Ballpark: 10,000 seats

Major events

Political and governmental

Nevada State Democratic Caucus (Jan. 9-20, 2008)

Democratic Party Presidential Debate (Jan. 15, 2008)

Office of Sen. Harry Reid Foreclosure Resource Center and Seminars (2008)

President Barack Obama Re-Election Rally (Sept. 12, 2012)

Clark County Democratic Party Convention (April 1-3, 2016)

U.S. citizenship ceremonies

Sports

Big League Weekend (1991-present)

Las Vegas 51s baseball

Jam On It Basketball Academy

USA Judo Tournaments

Oakland A’s first six regular-season games (1996)

National Collegiate Cheerleading Championships (Feb. 7-11, 2008)

United States Bowling Congress (Oct. 31, 2008- Aug. 15, 2009)

Cincinnati Reds Tryout Camp (June 12, 2009)

Niekro Foundation Fantasy Baseball Camp (Sept. 23-27, 2012)

LeBron James Skills Academy 2013 (July 6-8)

California Clasico soccer: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes – Feb. 13, 2016, Feb. 11, 2017)

NASCAR Press Conference (March 8, 2017)

Entertainment

Jerry Lewis Telethon (1989)

Sammy Davis Jr. Tribute (Dec. 21-22, 2012)

Beach Boys, Metallica, Earth Wind & Fire, Doobie Brothers concerts

“Les Miserables,” “Camelot,” “Sound of Music,” “Phantom of the Opera” and other Broadway tours

Community

Las Vegas Centennial cake construction (May 14-15, 2005)

Centennial Birthday Celebration concert/fireworks (2005)

Maya Angelou (Feb. 27, 2007)

Job fairs

High school graduation ceremonies

Project Homeless Connect, Nevada Homeless Alliance

Gourmet Grazer, Alliance of Black Culinarians

Police, fire and teacher training and testing

Dance and music recitals

Pet shows

Home shows

Bridal shows

Health, beauty and fitness shows

Dance and cheerleading competitions

100-Year Girl Scout birthday bash (Sept. 15, 2012)

Indian National Finals Powwow (Nov. 9-11, 2016)

Las Vegas BikeFest

Gun shows

The Craft Festival

Source: Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority

Las Vegas 51s: Going, but not gone — yet

The Las Vegas 51s — the city’s Triple-A minor league baseball team — will move to a new Summerlin ballpark in 2019.

Which gives them one more season at Cashman Field, which debuted in 1983.

At the time, Cashman “was typically looked on as being the best,” notes 51s President Don Logan. At the time, “a lot of stadiums were old, made out of wood.”

When it opened, Cashman’s “locker rooms were the best,” he says. “Now, they’re the worst.”

Beyond the ballpark itself, Cashman Field’s location — north of U.S. Highway 95, on Las Vegas Boulevard North and Washington Avenue — “has been forgotten about” during the downtown redevelopment boom, Logan contends. “It’s time to move on.”

Even so, after 35 seasons with the team, Logan has fond memories, from Big League Weekend visits by major-league teams to such regulars in the stands as late Gov. Mike O’Callaghan.

Asked if he’ll miss the old place after the move, Logan replies instantly. “Of course I will,” he says. “I’ve had a chair (there) since 1987 that finally gave up the ghost.”

Contact Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

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