The owners of the Las Vegas Aviators knew their new ballpark in the community of Summerlin would usher in an improved fan experience, but they couldn’t have envisioned the meteoric surge in ticket sales, as the team currently leads all of Minor League Baseball in attendance.
And now Las Vegas Ballpark has a major national award to add to its accomplishments, as BaseballParks.com announced that the new facility is the winner of its 20th Annual Ballpark of the Year Award.
Every year since 2000, BaseballParks.com has presented this honor to the new or remodeled baseball stadium with the best combination of site selection, exterior appearance, architectural design, and fan amenities. The selection is made by an advisory panel utilized by the 22-year-old website.
The announcement of the award was made in the July 31 edition of USA TODAY Sports Weekly and atBaseballParks.com. Joe Mock, founder and webmaster of the website and a frequent contributor to USA TODAY publications, penned the article about this year’s honor.
The Aviators of the Pacific Coast League are the Class Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The Howard Hughes Corporation, owners of the Aviators and developers of Summerlin, covered the costs to design and build the park. Architecture firm HOK developed its design. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) committed $80 million over 20 years for a naming rights sponsorship.
Local fans will be able to watch the presentation of the award in person prior to the Aviators’ home game Saturday, August 3. Mock will present plaques to team President and COO Don Logan and Project Designer Devin Norton from HOK. Also on hand will be Summerlin President Kevin T. Orrock.
“We love making baseball history with Las Vegas Ballpark and are thrilled to receive this merit-based award,” Logan said when informed of the honor. “It’s truly a winning stadium that is setting a new standard for professional baseball nationwide.”
“Las Vegas Ballpark joins City National Arena, practice facility of the Vegas Golden Knights, to make Downtown Summerlin a major sports destination, not just for the immediate Summerlin community but for everyone in Southern Nevada,” said Orrock. “As owner of the Las Vegas Aviators, The Howard Hughes Corporation is committed to nothing but the best for both the team and the fans, ensuring the stadium experience is exceptional. We couldn’t be more pleased to be recognized by BaseballParks.com with this award.”
“We appreciate that BaseballParks.com recognizes what the Las Vegas Aviators’ fans have been saying since Las Vegas Ballpark debuted earlier this year,” said Steve Hill, CEO and President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “We congratulate our partners at The Howard Hughes Corporation for developing an incredible venue and creating an impactful and memorable fan experience.”
The list of past winners reads like a Who’s Who of standout baseball facilities. Past honorees include Pittsburgh’s PNC Park in 2001, San Diego’s Petco Park in 2004, Columbus’ Huntington Park in 2009 and spring-training facility Salt River Fields in 2011.
There is a bumper crop of new ballparks in 2019, so Las Vegas Ballpark faced a lot of competition for the honor. Six new pro parks opened their gates this year, the largest number in the past decade.
Unlike other ballpark awards, the honor presented by BaseballParks.com is based on merit, not on a vote by fans. Mock, who has visited all 203 ballparks used by the Majors, spring training and the affiliated Minor Leagues, consulted with two other experts in the field to determine the winner. Joining Mock on the selection panel are Doug Greenwald, baseball broadcaster for the past 24 years, and Graham Knight, author of three books on ballparks and who operates the popular Baseball Pilgrimages website.
“It’s a pleasure getting to work with two men who have scrutinized so many baseball facilities,” Mock noted. “Every season, we each rank all of the new parks, and this year all three of us felt that Las Vegas Ballpark was the best.”
Added Knight, “When Salt River Fields opened in 2011, it was truly transcendent and bar-raising for all spring-training facilities, and eight years later, there’s still no complex that can touch it. I feel the same very well may be true about Las Vegas Ballpark — that years from now, it will still be the gold-standard for Minor League parks.”
In many respects, the Ballpark of the Year honor is an architecture award, highly prized by designers of sports facilities. Anton Foss, Managing Principal of HOK’s San Francisco practice, was the principal in charge of the project. “We’re honored and humbled that Las Vegas Ballpark has been recognized as the Ballpark of the Year,” said Foss. “The ballpark’s materials and feel took cues from the nearby Red Rock Canyon and the big sky of the Southern Nevada desert. Howard Hughes’ aviation legacy inspired the graceful curve in the roof, and the project always was informed by the surrounding Downtown Summerlin area. The impact the ballpark has had on the experience for fans and the surrounding community is a testament to a committed client and talented team who wanted to bring a first-class baseball environment to Las Vegas.”
Pat O’Conner, President of Minor League Baseball, was thrilled when informed of the award. “The Las Vegas Ballpark is a magnificent facility with every aspect of the fan experience and player development taken into consideration, from planning through construction. The result is this gorgeous ballpark that has brought new life to professional baseball in the Las Vegas/Summerlin community. I’m so happy for Don Logan, who has been working for 20 years to get a new ballpark, and for The Howard Hughes Corporation for its investment in the ballclub and its efforts to make Summerlin such a beautiful community. I am also incredibly proud of the other affiliated Minor League Baseball finalists for this award in Amarillo and Fayetteville, as those ballparks are nothing short of spectacular as well.”
Joining Las Vegas Ballpark in the running for this year’s award were: CoolToday Park in North Port, FL, spring training home of the Braves; Amarillo’s Hodgetown, home of the Sod Poodles of the Texas League; Fayetteville’s Segra Stadium, where the Woodpeckers of the Carolina League play; BB&T Point in High Point, NC, home of the Rockers of the indy Atlantic League; and Routine Field in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin, home of the Milkmen of the indy American Association.
“It’s been a decade since we’ve seen the debut of so many excellent ballparks,” Mock remarked. “That presented us with quite a challenge to pick the winner this year, but after examining all six of the parks, I’m confident Las Vegas Ballpark is one of the best parks ever built.”