By ALAN SNEL
There was a dearth of public info on this Las Vegas ballpark subsidy deal before the vote, but Howard Hughes Corp., owner of the Las Vegas 51s, scored a huge victory Tuesday when the LVCVA board gave $80 million in public money to Howard Hughes for the developer to build a new Triple A ballpark in Summerlin.
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority execs lobbied for the 20-year deal of paying $4 million annually to Dallas-based Howard Hughes because it allows the LVCVA to get out of the business of running Cashman Field, the 51s downtown home. The LVCVA said it was losing $4.3 million annually to manage Cashman.
So, now the LVCVA will pay Howard Hughes $80 million over 20 years and the new 10,000-seat, 22-suite venue will be called Las Vegas Ballpark under the naming rights agreement. Howard Hughes will build the ballpark next to the Vegas Golden Knights two-rink training center/headquarters called City National Arena along Pavilion Center Drive across from Downtown Summerlin and Red Rock Resort.
“It took a while,” 51s President Don Logan said in the understatement of the year.
The beleaguered Logan has complained for years that Cashman is outdated for Triple A baseball, bringing up the annual sewage back-up issue as a perennial anecdote. The process of building a new 51s ballpark in Summerlin got pushed back because the NFL Raiders decided to move to Las Vegas after its scored a $750 million stadium subsidy from southern Nevada.
Howard Hughes hopes to have the ballpark open by March 17, 2019 to host Big League Weekend when two Major League Baseball teams square off in pre-season games in Las Vegas. Then the Triple A team starts in April.
In this golden age of new teams and stadiums in Las Vegas, the Raiders hope to open their $1.8 billion stadium project in mid-2020 on the west side of I-15 at Russell Road and Polaris Avenue.
This morning, the LVCVA board approved the 20-year expenditure, with board members John Lee, the North Las Vegas mayor, and Ricki Barlow, a Las Vegas city councilman, dissenting. Two other LVCVA board members, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, abstained.
“I want to support this, but I have too many questions,” Goodman said, explaining why she abstained.
Goodman told LVSportsBiz.com that she did not have time to digest all the details of the $80 million naming rights deal that the LVCVA eventually struck with Howard Hughes Corp. thanks to the board vote.
Lee argued the new Triple A ballpark will not be a huge job creator.
“It’s not the responsible thing to do,” Lee told his board colleagues.
Thomas Warden, Howard Hughes’ local VP on community issues, beamed with happiness after the vote and told LVSportsBiz.com that Howard Hughes plans to build everything from brownstones and apartments to condos along the Pavilion Center Drive corridor to make it an urban residential neighborhood where residents can walk to the Las Vegas Ballpark and City National Arena.
“It’s a great day for baseball and a great day for the community,” Warden said.
Howard Hughes officials joked that their ballpark will be so close to City National Arena that home runs over the leftfield fence might end up hitting the Golden Knights practice facility. In fact, Howard Hughes even took a look at the idea of putting seats atop City National Arena so that baseball fans could watch Triple A games from there, but that notion didn’t get too far.
LVCVA Chief Financial Officer Rana Lacer made a case that the LVCVA was losing so much money running the Cashman ballpark that the cash flow over 20 years at the new Summerlin ball yard would amount to $42 million from, in part, savings from not having to manage Cashman.
She said naming rights values for Triple A ballparks were across the board, noting, “Some destinations have more value than others.”
The LVCVA supported the $80 million naming rights deal because it would create media exposure and marketing assets for Las Vegas.
But Goodman wondered how a Major League Baseball team would move to Las Vegas if the market is already tapped out from subsidizing the Raiders stadium to the tune of $750 million and the 51s for $80 million. She said there would be no political appetite to give more public money for a MLB ballpark when the Raiders and 51s are receiving tens of millions of dollars in public funds.
“What happens when Major League Baseball wants to come here,?” Goodman asked.
But for now, the Triple A Las Vegas 51s are happy they received their $80 million for a new ballpark.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com