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Aviators vow ‘wow’ factor at new Las Vegas Ballpark

Updated April 8, 2019 - 10:48 pm

Gone are the summers of burned bottoms on metal benches and long lines at the ballpark. Now begin the days of mesh seats designed to keep you cool and food-and-beverage vendors galore. And don’t forget about the gigantic scoreboard in left-center. Yes, it’s a new era for baseball in Southern Nevada.

The Las Vegas Aviators, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, will play their first game Tuesday night at a new $150 million home in Downtown Summerlin.

As the Las Vegas Ballpark opens its doors to the public, the franchise closes the book on Cashman Field north of downtown Las Vegas, where it had played since 1983 as the Stars and the 51s.

Aviators President Don Logan said the new stadium is “apples and oranges” compared with Cashman and a “must-see attraction” for fans.

“I want them to be proud of it because it’s Las Vegas’. I want it to be a ‘wow’ factor, and there will be,” he said.

In putting together a modern, “major league” home for their new-look franchise, the Aviators sought out what has worked elsewhere in baseball, he said.

Enter a heated pool behind center field similar to that of Chase Field in Phoenix, a 14-foot “Green Monster” wall in left and an entertainment area next to the pool geared toward millennials, Logan said. Modeled after the “The Band Box” inside the Nashville Sounds stadium, the Corona-branded area will feature foosball and cornhole, along with food and beer.

“We had a bowl with seats in it at Cashman, but you don’t have anything like this,” he said.

Fans walking the 360-degree concourse around the stadium may use the public Wi-Fi accessible throughout the park. But the first thing they probably will notice is the scoreboard, considering at 3,930 square feet it’s the biggest scoreboard in all of minor league baseball.

“We have spent a ridiculous amount of money on software packages to make that thing hum, so it does a lot,” Logan said.

The ballpark’s green walls wrap around the outfield with the massive scoreboard against a grated backdrop out to left-center and City National Arena, the practice facility for the Vegas Golden Knights, just on the other side.

Palm trees stand over the right-field concourse, while Red Rock Resort towers behind the glass suite windows and the first-base line. The Spring Mountains to the west offer a red, rocky backdrop behind the resort.

The 7.65-acre property sits about 1,000 feet higher than Cashman Field with an average temperature about 7 degrees cooler, Logan said. Large ceiling fans hang throughout the covered portion of the concourse.

Children may splash in the water play zone located near center field, Logan said. And, of course, there’s the pool, which may be rented out.

“(You’re) not going to be beat up by the sun in the summertime,” he said.

Sufficient bathroom coverage, 30 portable food-and-beverage stands and three permanent stands throughout the stadium should make long lines a thing of the past, too, Logan said.

Fans can grab gourmet hot dogs and A-shaped pretzels along with some not-so-typical ballpark food, including Capriotti’s sandwiches, mushroom mac-and-cheese and heirloom tomato salads with avocado, mozzarella, red onion and a balsamic vinaigrette.

‘Finally, a nice place’

People walking out of the team’s merchandise store in Downtown Summerlin on Sunday afternoon welcomed the franchise’s venue change.

Nathan and Deanna Ball, partial season ticket owners, had attended games at Cashman about twice a year for most of their lives, but they expect to attend Aviators games once per week with friends this season, Deanna Ball said. The new stadium is close to their home and Downtown Summerlin provides plenty to do before and after the game, she said.

“Finally, a nice place to watch baseball here,” he said.

DeJuan Hazel, pushing a stroller carrying his son, was walking out of the store with “too much stuff,” including hats and a bat for his other son.

A new look with a new stadium were enough to have Hazel, who previously didn’t follow the team, out buying gear Sunday and planning to attend games this summer.

“It’s like a rejuvenation,” Hazel said of the franchise makeover.

Rick and Bonnie Albert also will be in the stands on Tuesday. The Alberts, recently retired and Las Vegas residents for seven years, bought partial season tickets and were eager to watch games in Downtown Summerlin, about a mile from their place.

“Cashman was just old. It was cool; it was a baseball game,” said Rick Albert, who had attended a few games at the stadium. “But this is just a different experience. We live close. We can come here and eat. We walk from here to there. It’s just very efficient.”

When the fans show up, they’ll have free on-site parking and multiple routes to and from the stadium.

And while Finn the Bat Dog will be back, it’s unclear whether Cosmo, the 51s mascot, has returned to his home planet for good in lieu of another mascot.

“That’s one of the surprises that you’re gonna see here pretty soon,” Logan said.

The franchise has kept mum on pregame festivities, though a Twitter account for Hailey Dawson — who gained fame for throwing pitches at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums using her 3D-printed hand — posted she would throw the first pitch.

“It’s going to be special,” Logan said of the ballpark.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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