On the Road: Exploring Las Vegas Ballpark

Aviators take flight within sleek, shiny Summerlin surroundings

Las Vegas Ballpark, the home of the Aviators, replaces the franchise's former home of Cashman Field.

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | August 8, 2019 10:45 AM

The Las Vegas Aviators, Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, play in brand-new Las Vegas Ballpark. Call them the boys of Summerlin. 

Las Vegas Ballpark replaces Cashman Field, which served as the Pacific Coast League franchise's home from 1983-2018. The new facility is located in downtown Summerlin, an affluent planned community overlapping with the northwestern edge of Las Vegas proper. Both Summerlin and the Aviators are owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation; the land was bought by Howard Hughes himself, and the Aviators name is a reference to his aviation exploits. While Las Vegas Ballpark may sound like the name of a facility that failed to secure a corporate naming rights sponsor, that is far from the case. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) paid a whopping $80 million in order to secure the name for the next 20 years. 

Video: Join Ben on a tour of Las Vegas Ballpark

The Aviators' name and corresponding imagery is more streamlined and sleek than the alien-themed imagery of the team's previous 51s identity (a reference to nearby Area 51). Likewise, Las Vegas Ballpark is streamlined and sleek -- as Major League as a Minor League ballpark can be, existing within a larger sporting landscape that includes a new NHL franchise (the Golden Knights) and soon will have an NFL team (the relocating Oakland Raiders). Those looking for neon-hued kitsch will have to go elsewhere in the Sin City to find it.


Las Vegas's PCL franchise announced its new name on December 8, 2018.

Cashman Field's deficiencies, including an infamous incident in which sewage flooded into the dugout, were well documented in recent years. It was not a facility that Major League clubs wanted their farmhands to play in; parent clubs such as Toronto (2009-12) and the New York Mets (2013-2018) partnered with Las Vegas simply because they had no other viable options.

Las Vegas Ballpark changed that situation dramatically, as following the 2018 campaign the Aviators found an enthusiastic partner in the Athletics. Aviators general manager Chuck Johnson, in giving a tour of the facility, is quick to point out that there was "a real attention to player amenities." This includes spacious clubhouse, office and training areas for both the home and away team. Johnson said that visitor amenities were particularly important given Las Vegas's history of hosting Major League exhibition games.


Las Vegas Ballpark player amenities include a clubhouse kitchen and lounge area.

The visitor amenities extend beyond the ballpark itself, as the visiting team stays at the Red Rock Casino Resort across the street. The resort, named after the nearby red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, is visible from the party deck on the first base side. Looming behind it are the Spring Mountains.


The view of downtown Summerlin and the Spring Mountains, from the third base party deck.

Sunrise Mountain is visible from beyond the outfield side of the ballpark, with plenty of open land in between. Las Vegas Ballpark, comprising 7.65 acres, is abutted by land that will be developed into some combination of residential, office and retail space. The Aviators do not charge for parking, because if they did fans would be inclined to avoid the charge by parking in downtown Summerlin and walking to the ballpark. This, in turn, would take up spots needed for customers of other businesses in the area.

While Summerlin has plenty of room in which to grow, it already includes a wide variety of shops and restaurants.

"Twelve or 14 of our players live within a two-to-four mile radius of the ballpark, which means you'll find 12 or 14 electric scooters downstairs [near the home clubhouse]," said Johnson. "I think Scott Boras started that, getting his [clients] scooters. You have everything you need in the neighborhood, so there's no need to venture downtown."


The mascots of Las Vegas Ballpark: The Aviator (left) and Spruce the Goose.

Las Vegas Ballpark was built on a downward slope, on land descending toward the center of Las Vegas Valley. From its northwest corner to the southeast, there is a 17-foot difference in elevation. The stadium sits at an overall elevation of approximately 3,000 feet, which, as Johnson notes, is "one more reason the ball has been flying out of here." Higher elevation also means cooler temperatures, leading to a more pleasant fan experience than that which could be found in the notoriously hot confines of Cashman Field. The ballpark is also the first in professional sports to feature only mesh seats, which are much cooler than those made of hard plastic. Johnson estimated that mesh seats, approximately 40 degrees cooler, added upwards of $1 million to the ballpark's overall construction cost. 


MiLB.com's Ben Hill sits on one of Las Vegas Ballpark's many mesh seats. 

Las Vegas Ballpark's most dominating feature is a video scoreboard, located in left center field, that is massive even by today's new ballpark standards. Approximately 31 feet high and 126 feet wide, it's the 23rd-largest in all of North American professional baseball. 

"We wanted to make sure this was a focal point," Johnson said. "We'd never had LED boards or ribbons [at Cashman Field], so there were all these unknowns that were fun to get into, but also a little worrisome. We didn't want to miss a beat." 

The scoreboard is installed on a massive steel wall located behind the left field concourse, which wasn't part of the design. City National Arena, the Golden Knights' practice facility, juts up against that side of the ballpark, and the wall was added as a measure of protection. 

"The arena's expensive and it would get pelted during batting practice if it wasn't protected," said Johnson. "It gave us an opportunity to provide a dynamic [ad] space for our founding partners and naming rights partner, and it provides enough of an enclosure to give us a bigger ballpark feel."

A pool is located in right center field, just beyond the batter's eye, which is rented out to groups on a nightly basis. There is now a waiting list for the pool, which, per Johnson, has thus far mostly been utilized for children's birthday parties.

"We were maybe hoping for more adult parties, to distract the [visiting] relievers," he said. 

The Hangar Bar, accessible to patrons from both its front and back ends, adjoins the pool. The pool and bar overlook the visitors bullpen, while the adjacent home bullpen is directly in front of the right field berm. All of these elements combined make for a vibrant game day atmosphere.

A recent trend in Minor League Ballpark design is to situate the press box down the first or third base line. This frees up space directly behind home plate for premium seating and group areas, but alienates the media and makes it especially difficult for broadcasters to call the game accurately. The Aviators have the best of both worlds, as the top level of the stadium houses the press box. The press box, located under a sloping roof, adds to the team's aviation theme by forming the cockpit of an upper level structure that, taken together, resembles a fighter plane (the wings are the suites, located down the first and third base sides of the facility).

"We felt that the press deserved a spot behind home plate, but we didn't want to give up the revenue generated from behind home plate," said Johnson. "[The press box] was a late addition, but it accomplished an operational aspect and gives it an aviation-style bump. So it all worked out." 


The upper-level press box is Las Vegas Ballpark's "cockpit."

The revenue being generated from behind home plate comes courtesy of a premium club level area. The 400 seats, available through season-ticket plans, are sold out. The club level is anchored by a massive lounge, which features a bar, food stations and, most uniquely, a "show kitchen" for visiting celebrity chefs such as Food Network star (and Las Vegas restaurateur) Giada De Laurentiis. The show kitchen is part of a larger culinary strategy, as the Aviators concessions feature offerings from a variety of local restaurants. For much more on Las Vegas Ballpark food, peruse this standalone overview as well as this article on chef Brian Howard's hot dog creations. 


The Las Vegas Ballpark show kitchen, located on the club level. 

Year one at Las Vegas Ballpark has been a success. The Aviators are leading all of Minor League Baseball in attendance, having drawn 544,084 fans over their first 54 openings (an average of 9,222 per game). It took the team a mere 42 games to break the previous franchise attendance record of 387,815, set in 1992. Soon, it will be time to build on that success.

"We're happy with how things have gone so far," said Johnson. "And, heading into year two, we'll have ideas about how to make it even better."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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