51s down to final out in Las Vegas?

It is no secret that the city of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention Center want to get rid of the 51s. Perhaps this is the reason that Cashman Field is heavily neglected.

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At the end of last season the sewage near the home team dugout broke down as the toilets started to bubble and backed up. The smell was terrible. And of course this happened on a promotional night on which the stadium was packed, wich doesn’t happen very often in Las Vegas.

For years the 51s have been complaining about the deplorable state of Cashman Field. But last year the team got some help from an unexpected side. Commissioner of the Pacific Coast League, Branch Rickey III, wrote a letter to the LVCVA president Rossi Ralenkotter, about the questionable state of Cashman Field and how the facility was surpassed by every other ballpark in AAA baseball. That letter was written in May 2015.

Rickey wrote a second letter in November, after the toilets had bubbled over. In the letter Rickey expressed the concerns of the PCL because of the recent events.
Here are some quotes from the letter: “It needs to be faced that Cashman’s days of reliable use are well behind it, a conclusion not limited to experts in Las Vegas. The baseball community also knows it and to such a degree that the big league teams in proximity to Las Vegas have opted for Triple-A affiliations in far less appropriate markets.”

“The playing surface, dressing rooms, trainer’s rehab areas, family waiting rooms, concession stands, restrooms, are all ongoing at-risk areas …”

“That particular problem is representative of what are more regular and pervasive infrastructure issues,” Rickey wrote. “The salient point is that the Cashman facility has deteriorated. To assure it will be ready for play beyond 2017 and 2018 might force an expenditure of many tens of millions of dollars and still not provide an optical long-term solution.”  In other words, Cashman Field is not a long term option any longer for the PCL.

According Ralenkotter, the LVCVA is losing $5 million on a yearly basis due to the contract with the 51s and did the LVCVA spend $8 million through the years to upgrade the ballpark and that they will spend more money to fix the dugout toilets.

But fixing the toilets is only patchwork for a ballpark that is literally crumbling down.

The city of Las Vegas doesn’t make it easy for the 51s as well. There was a plan to build a ballpark in Summerlin, a suburb of Las Vegas in the direction of Red Rock Canyon. But eventually the city stated that it did not want to pay for a facility that was outside its boundaries.

Recently the city of Henderson came up with a ballpark plan, though in its infancy. It remains to be seen if that plan will pan out. And if this plan will pan out well, it may take at least three years before the 51s can move.

It looks like that Las Vegas and LVCVA are playing foul in an attempt to force the 51s out of the city. The stadium lease will run until 2023, but can one expect that the ball club wants to stay in a stadium that is deteriorating? There may be a temporary solution. If Henderson is serious about luring the 51s, the ball club may move to Tucson for one or two seasons, just to get out of Cashman Field. The Portland Beavers did something similar as they were ousted from PGE Park. The team was looking in the area of San Diego but eventually ended up in El Paso with a state of the art facility. Tucson was only a temporary refuge. But anything is better than to play in a dump, and that is what Cashman Field is becoming slowly.

Letting a ballpark deteriorate to get what you want has been put to the test before. Walter O’Malley let Ebbets Field deteriorate to show that he needed a new ballpark. There is one major difference as he was the owner of the ballpark. In case of Cashman Field, the 51s are the tennant and are in a more vulnerable position than O’Malley was. But it won’t come as a surprise if Cashman Field is left to rot deliberately by the LVCVA, in an attempt to get rid of the 51s sooner than 2022.

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