I’ve long been skeptical of the idea of Major League Baseball moving to Las Vegas. Mostly because I don’t see the economics working out.
The economy is in the toilet. Those who do have jobs and homes that aren’t in foreclosure work a disproportionate number of nights. While there are a lot of moneyed tourists coming through, they’re coming to gamble and party, not sit at a ballpark. And even if they were so inclined, you can bet that the casinos would try extra hard to keep them away from doing things that take them off hotel property for three prime time hours each night. Baseball is not event-driven like boxing or even football. There are 81 home games a year and attendance and television ratings are built on locals buying in to the product day-in, day-out, and that’s not really the Las Vegas profile.
But that doesn’t mean that someone won’t try. Reader Rob Browne alerted me to this story that appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal over the weekend. It’s about developer Chris Milam’s plan to buy the Las Vegas 51s (which he just did) and use them — as well as a Major League Soccer team and, hopefully, an NBA team — to anchor a mega sports complex west of Mandalay Bay, right across the freeway. There’s an artist’s rendering of the complex in the linked article. For baseball purposes, here’s the kicker:
With a 9,000-seat ballpark for the 51s, the proposed center, which will be located on a 63-acre parcel, will feature a 17,500-seat arena designed to house an NBA basketball team and a 36,000-seat stadium for a Major League Soccer squad … The two partially enclosed stadiums will be designed to allow expansion. The ballpark could expand to 36,000 seats to accommodate a Major League Baseball team.
None of that eliminates the demographic challenges baseball in Las Vegas faces. And, if you read the article you can see that such a plan faces all of the usual political and economic hurdles that prevent sexy artist’s renderings from becoming reality.
But the notion of a half-step on the stadium side with an existing, ready-for-expansion building could move the needle a bit in Las Vegas’ direction as far as Major League Baseball is concerned, making a relocation there a bit less of a risk for whoever might consider it.