The first domino of the 2018 affiliation shuffle fell yesterday—and it was a doozy. The Las Vegas 51s inked a two-year player-development contract with the Oakland A’s, the lone West Coast team available at the Triple-A level. 51s President Don Logan told the Las Vegas Review Journal that having an affiliate nearby was a deciding factor in the agreement, as was his friendship with A’s Executive Vice President Billy Beane.
“Geography matters,” Logan said. “How much it matters, I don’t know, but when you’ve got the list of teams available and there’s one West Coast team, which is Oakland, it just made sense and the fact that . . . Billy and I are friends.”
Don Logan received the ultimate gift at the start of his 35th season with the Las Vegas 51s: a brand new ballpark. Of course, the new stadium being built in a suburb of the city doesn’t officially belong to the longtime team president, but Logan can be forgiven if he feels a particular attachment to it. After all, he has spent more than two decades trying to bring one to Vegas.
“It’s a relief, to be honest,” Logan said.
Logan could finally exhale after years of starts and stops when shovels finally hit the dirt last February during a ceremonial groundbreaking for Las Vegas Ballpark in Summerlin, an affluent planned community on the northwestern outskirts of Las Vegas developed by the Howard Hughes Corporation — the same entity that purchased a stake in the 51s in 2013. The real estate development company took over control of the franchise last May and quickly moved forward with the rumored plan of building a state-of-the-art ballpark in Summerlin, marking the end of an era for Logan and the beginning of a new one for the city, team, Pacific Coast League and even minor league baseball as a whole.
The new ballpark, which is being funded by an $80 million naming rights deal from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and built on an 8-acre lot owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation, secures the team’s future in a city critical to the Pacific Coast League’s footprint because of the ease of travel through McCarran International Airport. Although the new ballpark has the potential to be one of the finest in the sport, and will represent everything that longtime home Cashman Field is not, it will also test minor league baseball’s “affordable, family friendly entertainment” business model in a market with no shortage of entertainment options.