Vegas Dreams Of Major Leagues, Celebrates Big League Weekend Return

Written By Marc Meltzer on November 18, 2022

Las Vegas has been a baseball city for decades. The year 2023 will be the 40th anniversary of the current run of Las Vegas teams. Next year also marks the return of Big League Weekend to Vegas.

Big League Weekend in Las Vegas returns

While Las Vegas is a minor league baseball city, major league teams have dropped in for exhibition games called Big League Weekend. MLB teams will be returning to Las Vegas in 2023 after a short break.

Las Vegas Aviators minor league team president and COO Don Logan said:

“We are excited to welcome back Big League Weekend to Las Vegas Ballpark after a three-year absence due to a variety of circumstances, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We welcome our major league affiliate, the Oakland Athletics, who will face Cincinnati for a two-game series. Las Vegas Ballpark will once again provide an outstanding atmosphere and environment for Major League Baseball. Fans, both locals and tourists that visit during this event, will have a memorable time.”

Big League Weekend details

  • What: Big League Weekend
  • Who: Oakland A’s vs. Cincinnati Reds
  • When: Starts at 1:05 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 4-5
  • Where: Las Vegas Ballpark, 1650 S. Pavilion Center Drive
  • Cost: Tickets start at $20. Seats can be reserved by emailing [email protected] or by phone at 702-943-7200

Prior to the past few years, the Big League Weekend games would often sell out. In 2020, the A’s defeated the Cleveland Indians twice in front of 8,159 and 7,521, respectively. Demand could be greater next year with pent-up baseball fans looking to catch a glimpse of MLB teams. Many Las Vegans have A’s fever with the possibility of the team moving to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas A’s?

The Oakland A’s have been pining to move to a new stadium in Oakland. There’s currently a massive plan to possibly build a Waterfront Ballpark District in Oakland.

A $1 billion baseball stadium that seats 35,000 people would be a small part of a $12 billion complex that would also include:

  • Up to 1.77 million square feet of commercial development
  • Up to 3,000 residential dwelling units
  • A new hotel with approximately 400 rooms
  • A new performance venue with a capacity of approximately 3,500

While the team is negotiating with Oakland for this complex, the A’s are also considering moving to Las Vegas. If the team does decide to move to Las Vegas, it would be for a stadium on the Vegas Strip.

There are currently two parcels of land in consideration by the A’s if the team moves to Las Vegas. A’s leadership looked at a slew of potential stadium locations, including Las Vegas Ballpark where its AAA team plays.

The team narrowed its options to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds across the street from Sahara Hotel and Casino and land on the site of the Tropicana. This is one reason Bally’s Corp. hasn’t made a redevelopment plan for the property since beginning operations.

The A’s would like public funding to assist with building a new stadium. Nevada’s outgoing Gov. Steve Sisolak did not intend to make public funding available. New Gov. Joe Lombardo has yet to weigh in on the topic. Sisolak was one of the government officials that supported funding Allegiant Stadium for the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas.

Time will tell if the A’s and MLB’s public negotiations will keep the team in Oakland or if it will move to Las Vegas.

History of Vegas baseball

The Las Vegas Wranglers was the first professional sports team to play in Sin City.

There was a long dry spell of Las Vegas baseball after the Wranglers stopped playing in the early 1950s. Professional baseball returned to Las Vegas in 1983 when the Las Vegas Stars started playing in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).

The team has been in action consistently since the 1980s. However, the minor league franchise has seen multiple names, owners (including Circa’s Derek Stevens) and MLB affiliations over the years.

Today, the Aviators call Sin City home. The Oakland A’s AAA affiliate plays its home games at Las Vegas Ballpark.

It could be time Las Vegas gets called up to the majors like Stars, 51s and Aviators players have to different MLB teams over the years.

Las Vegas Aviators’ quiet success story

The Aviators led the PCL in 2022 home attendance. The team hosted a total of 518,221 fans for an average of 6,910 attendance on 75 dates. Just about every Aviators game is packed, but amazingly only 11 were sellouts.

Las Vegas Ballpark has won an award from Ballpark Digest for the best AAA stadium for three of the four years it’s been open. Not too shabby.

Las Vegas has shown it can support a minor league baseball team. However, an MLB team with a larger venue might be a tough task — even if the stadium is on the small side.

Selling 35,000 tickets or more for 81 games is a much bigger task than selling 7,000 less expensive tickets for fewer games.

Las Vegas residents are showing great local support for the NHL’s Golden Knights. There are still visiting fans in attendance, but it’s not quite the same as football games. Visiting fans account for anywhere from 30%-50% of the fans in attendance at Raiders games.

Is Las Vegas a good city for baseball? Possibly.

Fans attending Las Vegas A’s games would mostly be local residents. It’s possible the city could support another major league franchise but it won’t be as easy as filling a stadium for a series of BTS concerts.

Photo by John Locher / AP
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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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