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August 30, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

How those hoping to build a baseball stadium in Summerlin can learn from the hype of UNLV Now

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Field of dreams: A rendering of the proposed $800 million, 60,000-seat UNLV Now stadium.

UNLV Now Stadium Renderings

UNLV Now mega events center rendering. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas 51s Sold to Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club

Investor Steve Mack speaks to reporters during a news conference at Cashman Field after a deal was finalized to buy the Las Vegas 51s on Monday, May 13, 2013. Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC, a joint venture of the Howard Hughes Corp. and Play Ball Owners Group — including investors Mack, Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer — purchased the 51s and plans to move the franchise to a new stadium in Summerlin. Launch slideshow »

New Las Vegas 51s owners might want to take a page out of UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck’s playbook when talking about their plans to build a state-of-the-art Triple-A stadium in Summerlin.

And, please, no jokes about how most of Hauck’s plays have failed in his three years coaching the Rebels. He got this one right.

Two summers ago, when the proposed UNLV Now project was full of steam and several were optimistic the Rebels would finally get an on-campus football stadium, Hauck told me there’s nothing wrong with Sam Boyd Stadium.

And he was being genuine, not toeing the company line.

Yes, he wanted the stadium to be built and surely used the prospect of a new facility when on the recruiting trail. But, at the same time, he’s never blamed Sam Boyd Stadium for the program’s shortcomings. Others did, but not Hauck.

“It is one of those things where having an on-campus venue, in terms of the collegiate experience and the atmosphere on campus, is a big deal,” Hauck said in July 2011. “Football Saturdays are fun on campus. That is not to say we can’t have fun in our current venue. But to have a football Saturday on campus is really a cool part of the college experience. It would be a good deal for UNLV.”

He later added, “Sam Boyd is a fun place to watch a game. There are good seats.”

His logic was simple: If UNLV Now failed, which seems to be the likely outcome, his team would still have to play in Sam Boyd Stadium. They would have to convince recruits that Sam Boyd Stadium is a suitable place to play and get fans excited about supporting a team that calls the not-so-attractive venue its home.

Last week, when Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC, a venture of Howard Hughes Corp. and Play Ball Owners Group — including investors Steve Mack, Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer — purchased the 51s with plans to move them to Summerlin, much was said about what Cashman Field lacks.

Cashman Field has inadequate player and fan amenities and is in a downtown location that is one of the most undesirable in Las Vegas. A new stadium was needed for the franchise to excel.

The stadium — planned for near the Red Rock Resort at Charleston Boulevard and the 215 Beltway — would be the centerpiece of a village including a retail side of 140 stores and 17 restaurants. It would cost in the neighborhood of $60 million and have all the bells and whistles Cashman Field, or any Triple-A facility, doesn’t. It could open as early as 2015 if everything goes according to plan.

But what happens if those plans fall through or funding can’t be secured? What happens if the 51s have to play at Cashman Field, where they have a lease agreement to play another eight seasons, indefinitely?

It’s tough to talk about what Cashman Field doesn’t have, then try to sell tickets for games there.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a place to which many locals are jazzed about taking their family for a night of baseball. But, just like Sam Boyd Stadium, it’s all we currently have in Las Vegas. Until there is one of those groundbreaking ceremonies with hard hats and shovels, we need to embrace the facilities as if they are Yankee Stadium or Cowboys Stadium, and don’t hesitate going to support the home team.

The new baseball stadium plans, just like when details were released for UNLV Now, seem too good to be true. And like the football stadium plans, it partially relies on public money in the form of bond — a red flag for some residents.

It’s too early to predict whether the project will be completed, but it’s not too far-fetched to believe it will be a reality. The new owners wouldn’t have bought the team if they didn’t think the stadium could be built.

They have the financial resources to make it happen. More important, they seem sincere on delivering on promises to give the community a venue of which to be proud. While some details still haven't been released — after all, they have owned the team less than two weeks — officials have said the new stadium would be family-friendly, stressing aspirations to create a night at the ballpark to include more than watching nine innings of a game.

It’s something most are rooting for (the others live in Henderson and won’t commute to Summerlin to support the team).

Earlier this year, I wrote how UNLV Now looked like a sure-thing to be constructed, proclaiming it would be ready for the 2015 season. Turns out I was wrong, mesmerized by the amazing sketches of what could be for my beloved alma mater.

I want to feel the same way about the Summerlin stadium project. It would be an awesome addition to this city’s landscape.

But I learned my lesson with the UNLV Now project — funding is tough to come by in Las Vegas, and getting residents on board to use public money might not be a winning battle.

Plus, in borrowing a line from Hauck, Cashman Field is a fun place to watch a game.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. It'd be nice see a new stadium built.

    But let Mack, Kaempfer, et al pay for it. Not one red dime should come fom the city or county. The police force is understaffed, and they want us to pay for a stadium.