Minor league in name only, new Las Vegas ballpark opens
By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Don Logan spent years trying to get a new minor league ballpark in this gambling city, so the president of the Las Vegas Aviators understands what the Oakland Athletics are going through in their quest for new digs in the Bay Area.
After all, he's had sewage in his dugout, too.
The A's are still contending with antiquated plumbing at the Oakland Coliseum, the team's home for the past 51 years. Their efforts to get a new stadium have floundered over the years, though recently there has been some momentum toward a new home field.
The club's top minor league team? Well, that's another story.
The Triple-A Aviators open at home Tuesday night in what might be the best ballpark in all of minor league baseball, a $150 million palace complete with swimming pool in right center, celebrity chefs overseeing the grills, and player comforts that rival the bigs.
If players have to spend time in Las Vegas on their way to the top, at least they'll be doing it in style.
"I think I can promise you the locker room facilities just by themselves are far superior here than in Oakland," Logan said.
Funded in part by an $80 million naming rights deal with Las Vegas tourism officials, the appropriately named Las Vegas Ballpark is a big investment for minor league baseball. The 10,000-seat ballpark replaces Cashman Field, which opened in 1983 and - in a bit of serendipity - was briefly the home of the A's themselves when they had to play their first six games of the 1996 season in Las Vegas because the Coliseum was being remodeled for the Raiders.
Logan was there for that series, as he has been for almost every game at Cashman since arriving in 1984, the year after what was then the Padres Triple-A team began play in Las Vegas. He was instrumental in trying to land four spring training teams for the city in the 1990s, and is in the conversation whenever talk turns to a possible major league franchise in Sin City.
But while he has seen just about everything in minor league baseball, Logan says he has never seen a ballpark like the one his team opens in this week.
"This is going to be as nice as any ballpark in the country," Logan said. "There isn't anything we haven't thought of."
That includes the pool, a concept first introduced by the Arizona Diamondbacks, which will be especially popular on summer nights when the temperature doesn't drop below 100 degrees until the games are over. Set amid a forest of towering palm trees, it rents for around $2,000 a game, and Logan predicted it will be filled almost every night.
So will the seats - which are made of mesh to help with the desert heat - and the party decks, which are modeled after those at the minor league park in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fans enjoying the game on the left field party deck will get the bonus of a view of the glittering hotels of the Las Vegas Strip in the valley below.
Logan, the 2018 Pacific Coast League executive of the year, said the team and its architects also borrowed from design elements from ballparks in El Paso, Texas, and in Columbus, Ohio, which has been the top-ranked minor league ballpark in many surveys.
"Its reign as the top ballpark in the minors is about to end this season," Logan said. "It is cool, but it's not this cool."
The old ballpark was located in a declining neighborhood near downtown, while the new one is in the suburban master planned community of Summerlin, with the new practice facility for the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights reachable with a big shot over the left field scoreboard.
It's prime real estate and players will also like that they can walk to the clubhouse from the Red Rock hotel-casino across the street, where visiting teams will stay. Fans can also bet on the game at the casino's sports book, which is offering lines on all Aviators games.
Ticket buyers will find it just as inviting. Besides the swimming pool, there are 22 suites, a wall full of craft beer taps, and a club level complete with a show kitchen for cooking displays. Giada de Laurentiis is one of the celebrity chefs, with others to come. The team also has its own beer, a seasonal ale.
"We've spent an inordinate amount of time on food and different types of beers," Logan said. "The food options and food experience here will be better than most anywhere in baseball, if not better."
Looming over it all will be a $4 million video board that is the largest in the minor leagues. This is Las Vegas, after all, so there has to be some glitz especially considering the city also has a new arena for the Golden Knights and is building a $1.9 billion stadium for the Raiders that will open next year.
That's a lot of competition for the sports dollar, but the Aviators figure to find their niche on the minor league level.
Big league good, even without a big league team.
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