(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated on Dec. 8, 2018, to reflect recent events.)
Home plate is where his heart is.
And Summerlin is where home plate will be.
Therefore, Don Logan will follow his heart to a new home, hoping fans of the Las Vegas Aviators — formerly the Las Vegas 51s — do likewise.
“It’s going to change the face of professional baseball in Las Vegas,” says Logan, the 59-year-old Aviators president, about relocating the Triple A team from downtown home Cashman Field to the 10,000-seat/$150 million/amenities-rich Las Vegas Ballpark, adjacent to Downtown Summerlin. That’s where the gates of the team’s brand-spanking-new home will swing open for the 2019 season.
“For our fans, it’s going to be so much better and more than they’ve grown accustomed to. It’s going to shock people how nice it’s going to be.”
Piggybacking on the debut of Las Vegas Ballpark has been a rebranding of the 51s to the Aviators, complete with a new logo, unveiled Dec. 8 — plus a new Major League Baseball team affiliation with the Oakland A’s. (The partnership with the New York Mets ended last season.) And Logan added an individual honor to his resume on Dec. 5 when he was named the Pacific Coast League Executive of the Year, making him the first three-time winner of the award (he also won in 1992 and 1998).
Las Vegas Newswire chatted with Logan about the team at an exciting crossroads — plus his lifelong love affair with baseball, rooted in his die-hard devotion to the San Francisco Giants.
Las Vegas Newswire: The facility will have a pool near the outfield. We hope no Super Soaker fights break out.
Don Logan: It’s going to be neat. You can sit in the pool and watch the game. Have a beverage right in front of you and look right through the outfield fence, in right-center field. There’s a bar in the outfield, behind the pool, that’s going to be an adult play zone with cornhole and pool tables and pingpong.
LVN: Can we still look forward to Dollar Beer Night?
DL: I don’t know if Dollar Beer Night transfers to Summerlin. We haven’t finalized that decision. But some of the things you have to do here to entice people to buy tickets won’t be necessary up there.
DL: It’s going to be a more state-of-the-art ballpark with more amenities. It’s going to attract families. (At Cashman), you get something to eat or drink, you watch the game, you go home. There, we’ll have restaurants where you can go before or after the game, or both. We’ve got the pool, the adult play zone, we’ve got a kids’ play zone with a splash pad. We’ve got an area we’ll set up for some sort of branded beverage, maybe craft beers or margaritas. We’ve got group corners in left and right field, the seats have rails in front so people can eat and drink, and it’s angled so you’re looking right at the pitcher. We’ve got party decks and party suites on both the first and third base side on the suite level. The suites hold 50 people, and there’s room for another 250 outside on a party deck.
The way minor league baseball and sports in general evolved, we’re going to have a 136-foot-long-by-38-foot-high digital scoreboard. That’s the focus of the entertainment when you’re not watching the game. Between innings, between pitches, between batters, the scoreboard’s going to be a real highlight. The sound system will be state of the art and the video is going to be fantastic.
LVN: Whew. Sounds like a lot of bang for your baseball buck. How will headquartering in Summerlin affect attendance?
DL: Our data shows that 37 percent of our fans coming to Cashman Field live in Summerlin or the northwest. And 35 percent live in Green Valley. Three-quarters of our fans come from those two areas. (Summerlin) is a much more accessible area for people from Green Valley because of I-215. You get off on Sahara or Charleston or Town Center. There will be a lot more ingress and egress options. I like to say: We’re going to go fish where the fish are.
LVN: With so much sports in Las Vegas now – including the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL, the Raiders coming in the NFL, the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA, the Las Vegas Lights soccer team and UNLV’s Runnin’ Rebels – where does minor league baseball fit into this new paradigm?
DL: We’re the professional baseball team in Las Vegas. And we’re minor league baseball, so we’re going to be at a price point that’s far less than the NHL and the NFL. It’s in the suburbs, that’s unique. A lot of teams across the country, the stadiums are in downtown areas as part of revitalization projects. We’re going into an area that’s vibrant already. We’re still the only thing going in the summertime. We put great sports entertainment on the field, but we’ll wrap it into a better, family-oriented entertainment. Our niche is carved and it’s just going to get better.
You look at similar markets that have major league sports and minor league baseball – Nashville is the most like us (with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds). They’ve got an NHL team and an NFL team, they built a new ballpark and they’re doing unprecedented things.
LVN: You grew up in Tonopah. Where did your passion for baseball come from?
DL: I grew up listening to the Giants — Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal and Tito Fuentes. When I was 5 years old, we went to San Francisco for a Giants game. The love affair was hatched. After sitting in the front seat of my parents’ car, listening to games, it exploded once I got to see it in person. I was there for Willie’s 3000th hit, in the hole between the third baseman and the shortstop.
LVN: Did you play baseball as a kid?
DL: In college, I played center field until I realized I couldn’t run enough to play center. But I could hit.
LVN: How well?
DL: At Utah State, I was a .260 hitter as a junior, and as a senior, I hit about .340.
LVN: Impressive. How many homers?
DL: I didn’t do that very often. I think I hit three home runs, which I remember vividly. And at college, Henry Aaron came to speak and came out to our baseball practice. That was a treat. I remember those things a whole lot more than I remember what I learned in the classroom.
LVN: Favorite baseball movie?
DL: Field of Dreams. It’s that feeling of how special baseball is. When you love something as much as I do baseball, the fantasy is part of it. It was just cool.
LVN: Best promotion you’ve ever done at Cashman?
DL: We have the best fireworks in town.
LVN: Worst promotion?
DL: We did an Easter Egg hunt one time with chocolate Easter eggs for the little kids, in the bright tinfoil wrappers and put them in the outfield. It was about 90 degrees that day. The eggs all melted and it ruined the grass.
LVN: What team do you think you’ll be calling “daddy” next year, with the Mets out of the picture?
DL: It’s predicated on who’s available. We’ve had to change a lot. After the Dodgers left, we had the Blue Jays and the Mets out of default. They were both great to work with, but geographically it didn’t make sense. It’s important to have good young players coming through the system, but if it’s a regional team, if you’ve got your big-league club close enough where people can go watch games, that’s a plus.
LVN: How’s was the rebranding process?
DL: The Stars (pre-51s) was a great name. The 51s name was never accepted to the level you hope it would be. It didn’t resonate and we took a lot of flak over the years. But with the new ballpark, it’s an opportunity to relaunch the team and the brand.
LVN: How were the suggestions that fans submitted?
DL: Several (were) not real appropriate, but there’s a lot of creative stuff.
LVN: (In choosing the Aviators), what was important about picking a new name?
DL: We want to honor the history, be Vegas-centric. The Howard Hughes Corp. owns the team and Howard Hughes was such an iconic part of the history of Las Vegas. We want to work the Hughes name and the Hughes brand into it.
LVN: But in honor of Hughes’ plane, the Spruce Goose, how about naming them the Las Vegas Spruce Geese?
DL: Ha! Actually, it’s been suggested — exactly that, in fact. But no.
LVN: You’re right. That conjures the image of players waddling and squawking around the bases. We deserve something way cooler.