As time goes on, Las Vegas becomes a good fit for Big League baseball By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports July 14, 2021 at 7:24 pm Back when the thought of having a Pacific Coast League baseball team in Las Vegas gave Commissioner of Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn sleepless nights, no one anywhere would have taken a bet on the possibility of a Major League team taking up residency in Sin City. Officials with the Las Vegas Stars of the PCL were run ragged back in 1983 when they considered leasing billboard space to – perish the thought! – the Las Vegas Club and other casinos. And if you’ll recall, Mel Exber’s Las Vegas Club had a baseball theme. The Kuhn-casino dustup was a combination of low comedy and high hypocrisy that provided what memory serves was about a million inches of overheated newspaper copy generated from the Cashman Field press box of my sports-writing youth. In those days, I could climb on a high horse faster than Bill Shoemaker. Gradually, times and tastes evolved. The American cultural scene came not only to increasingly accept Las Vegas and its gambling subculture, but to embrace it and, eventually, imitate it. The Stars became the 51s. Cashman Field went from state-of-the-art to venerable over the next three decades. The team won, lost, and on rare occasions was rained out. In 1999, the sparkling Las Vegas Ballpark opened in Summerlin and a new era of minor league baseball was begun. Las Vegas 51s Baseball Game flickr photo by Sarah&Boston shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license And still I would have bet that few in the crowd imagined Las Vegas would establish its own place in the Big League standings. The smashing success of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights helped change a lot of stubborn minds, my own among them. The political-power sweep that created a $2 billion football stadium and the relocation of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas made a lot of people true believers in the strength of Southern Nevada as a blossoming major league market. Add an increasingly popular WNBA franchise and professional soccer to the traditional boxing and MMA extravaganzas and you’ll now find folks scratching their heads and wondering aloud, “What’s taking Major League Baseball so long?” That question is in the process of being answered, thanks in large part to the increasing challenges faced by the Oakland A’s as they fight the competition in the American League West and play their home games in the decaying Oakland Coliseum, where flooding is not uncommon and modern player and fan amenities are not available. As A’s President Dave Kaval rolls up the frequent flyer miles making visits to Las Vegas, officially to check out potential sites for a new baseball park that might cost $1 billion or more, the city of Oakland continues to work out the complexities of a $12 billion waterfront makeover that would include a new stadium and an elaborate buildout that is being touted as mostly privately funded. In Clark County, more than a dozen potential sites have already been scouted, from Summerlin to Henderson, downtown to the edge of the Strip. With numerous large plots of open real estate, it’s not hard to envision of state-of-the-art ballpark at Sahara and the Strip, in the old Union Pacific railyard, or any of a number of other places. Shutterstock While Las Vegas fans play their own version of fantasy baseball, a July 20 meeting of the Oakland City Council could determine the fate of the general terms of the project and to no one’s surprise, the two sides are not in agreement on just how much each will be expected to give in order to get the enormous and game-changing redevelopment project done. Alameda County officials are expected to meet in September to weigh in publicly on the plan, but even fast-tracked, its buildout promises to take a couple of years to complete, even if everyone plays nice. Meanwhile, Las Vegas with its cheerleading elected officials and undeniable flash – the economic voltage provided by 40-plus million visitors a year makes even a longshot business opportunity feel like a favorite here – looks a little better each day. Las Vegas is still no favorite, in my only semi-informed opinion. But if you were making a futures bet, its odds would be dramatically different. And there’s no telling what might happen if the A’s, as some are starting to predict, wind up negotiating a deal to build a new stadium on the site of the crumbling Coliseum and spend a sweet summer playing their home games under the lights of Las Vegas Ballpark. The A’s would draw better here than at the Coliseum, I’d guarantee it. Call it the old minor-league sports writer in me, but I like that idea.