Talks for new 51s stadium in Summerlin hit stalemate

Talks on a new baseball stadium for the Las Vegas 51s have stagnated because team owners and government officials differ on exactly how much the stadium might cost and what it will take to get the Summerlin ballpark built.

Both Clark County and The Howard Hughes Corp., which owns half of the 51s, would like to see a new Triple-A stadium built. But County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said the sides haven’t talked in months.

Under a $65 million proposal for the ballpark, The Howard Hughes Corp. would donate land in Downtown Summerlin for the stadium. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the 51s’ current landlord at downtown’s Cashman Field, the team and the county would have contributed to the stadium’s construction costs, Sisolak said.

But Sisolak said Hughes Corp. had raised the price tag $20 million.

“They just wanted too much and the stadium got legs of its own, started growing, becoming more and more expensive and it kind of fell apart,” Sisolak said.

Sisolak said talks failed with Texas-based Hughes Corp., specifically with CEO David Weinreb.

However, Tom Warden, the senior vice president of community and government relations for The Howard Hughes Corp., said the company is ready to move forward at the $65 million threshold. Warden said he was unaware of discussions that raised the project’s cost to $85 million.

“This is a complicated discussion between really numerous stakeholders. It involves Clark County, it involves us and partners and it involves the city of Las Vegas and it involves the Convention and Visitors’ Authority,” Warden said. “It involves the Pacific Coast League, and sometimes complicated deals like that stall just for a lack of everything coming together at once but … I would think that this would be an opportunity to move forward.”

The 51s were purchased in 2013 by The Howard Hughes Corp. and the Play Ball Owners Group, which includes Steve Mack, Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer, with plans to move the team from Cashman Field to Downtown Summerlin.

Cashman Field opened in 1983. Pacific Coast League and team officials say the stadium is outdated as a minor league baseball facility.

The field is located within city limits and the site has been operated by the LVCVA, but a deal has been made to turn it over to the city. The proposed site in Downtown Summerlin is in unincorporated Clark County.

How much the various parties would pay toward the stadium hasn’t been determined. However, Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the city of Las Vegas wouldn’t provide funding.

Goodman said the city had offered to annex the Summerlin stadium site into Las Vegas in exchange for partially funding the new stadium, but there were no takers.

The 51s have a lease through 2022 and would need to give two seasons’ notice to break it.

The LVCVA has been losing about $5 million a year operating Cashman Center. Goodman said 51s management, ownership and Hughes Corp. had asked the city to continue the dialogue to fund part of the new stadium. Goodman wanted to hold off until the Cashman Center property came back to the city. She hoped to find a private investor to take over Cashman and put in several hundred million dollars. At that point, she said, funding a 51s move wouldn’t have been a problem.

While the city seeks to find a development partner, the 51s continue to seek a new stadium.

“I’m an optimist and I really hope that we’re going to be able to get this thing put together now that the season’s behind us,” 51s President and Chief Operating Officer Don Logan said.

Warden said Hughes Corp. is looking forward to continuing discussions to building a state-of-the-art facility. Sisolak said he was surprised to hear that Hughes Corp. was now back down to around $65 million for the stadium.

“I’m not interested in negotiating with Howard Hughes out of Texas. I’m not interested,” Sisolak said. “If I get burned once, I don’t touch the iron the second time. You already burned me once. I don’t do that.

“Now if somebody else was involved with Howard Hughes up here, I don’t know if there’s another way to make this work, but I am not interested in negotiating with this group out of Texas.”

Betsy Helfand can be reached at Follow on Twitter: @BetsyHelfand

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