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Las Vegas unlikely to help fund proposed 51s ballpark in Summerlin

Steve Mack is no stranger to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

“We’ve met many times,” the mayor said.

Unfortunately for Mack — the public face of the new Las Vegas 51s ownership group — lobbying Goodman for public dollars to build a 51s ballpark next to the Red Rock Resort in Summerlin will likely be a strikeout.

There is one little bit of geography that is problematic for Goodman.

The proposed 51s ballpark location sits in Clark County, just outside the city line.

“We can’t sell to city residents that we’re going to take your money and give it to the county,” Goodman said.

The ownership’s original game plan was to drum up support among the city, the county and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to persuade the three potential stakeholders to jointly finance a $65 million ballpark of 8,000 to 9,000 seats.

The ownership, a combination of Dallas-based Summerlin developer Howard Hughes Corp. and local investors Mack, Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer, argued the 51s’ current home, 30-year-old Cashman Field, is antiquated; that is, it lacks modern fan amenities of newer Triple A ballparks and player development facilities such as indoor batting cages.

Mack and Howard Hughes Chief Executive Officer David Weinreb have met privately with Goodman about the city kicking in public dollars toward the proposed Summerlin ballpark, which would be built on 16 to 20 acres to be donated by Howard Hughes Corp.

But Goodman said she responded by offering three suggestions.

First, annex the property into the city, she recommended. Or second, get the county to foot the stadium construction cost because the venue is technically in unincorporated county. Or third, she said, get Howard Hughes to finance the 51s ballpark as part of its $450 million The Shops at Summerlin project.

The 51s’ owners might not be drawing much political traction for their ballpark proposal for Summerlin, but they also are in no rush either. In October 2012, the 51s won approval for a 10-year lease extension from the LVCVA board at the 9,334-seat Cashman Field.

Goodman said the 51s’ owners informed her that the team did not intend to make any improvements to their current home on the northern edge of downtown and that they took her suggestions “under advisement.”

“They had a plan and they were going to stick with it,” Goodman said.

The 51s’ owners have added few comments to the public conversation about their ballpark proposal.

Mack, a former pawnshop chain owner who now owns an e-commerce software development company, noted in an email, “Getting ready for Big League Weekend and the new season. We are working diligently forward.”

Thomas Warden, senior vice president for community and government relations for Howard Hughes Corp., Summerlin, said there is no update on the ballpark front.

“Still working with the stakeholders and we will call when there is an update,” Warden wrote in an email to the Review-Journal.

The county commissioner whose district includes the proposed ballpark site is Susan Brager, who met with the new owners shortly after they bought the team for $20 million from Stevens Baseball Group last year.

“I don’t have a decision, because I have not seen anything new,” Brager said. “They’re still working on it. There are a lot of moving parts.”

LVCVA officials have not publicly discussed the matter. But the authority’s touting of Cashman Field on its TV show, called “LVCVA LV360” on Clark County’s TV station, seems to indicate the agency looks at the current ballpark as quite viable.

This year, the 51s pay rent of $321,171 to the LVCVA, while the Cashman grounds’ budget for 2014 ballgames is $84,000, LVCVA spokeswoman Dawn Christensen said.

The LVCVA has its own mega facility project to finance: a $2.5 billion convention center expansion plan that even Goodman acknowledged takes priority since she said tourism is Las Vegas’ economic lifeblood.

In an interview last year, Mack argued it didn’t pay for the LVCVA to keep Cashman Field because the money spent on maintenance and upkeep of the ballpark could be redirected to building a modern venue that would require less maintenance costs.

Besides hosting 51s games, Cashman Field’s biggest weekend is Big League Weekend, with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs this year playing preseason games Saturday and today.

Las Vegas Councilman Bob Beers said he likes the idea of a new 51s ballpark in Summerlin with a mini-urban village around it. Beers said he would support a look at whether changing the use of Cashman Field could save money for the city, money that could then potentially be used for a new 51s stadium.

“It’s a complex deal any time you’re moving a team. It’s probably a fluid situation,” Beers said.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow him on Twitter @BicycleManSnel.

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