Photos: Norm Clarke

When and where Major League Baseball might arrive in Las Vegas is coming into clearer focus.

When Rossi Ralenkotter, longtime CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, predicts MLB and NBA franchises will be here “soon,” it would be a mistake to label it as hype.                       

When Don Logan, the longtime face and voice of baseball in Las Vegas, is emphatic that the MLB ballpark will be built in Henderson, he’s not speculating.

You don’t have to read between the lines: Las Vegas is getting the message that MLB is serious about putting a team here. There are preliminary conversations going on at the highest level, I’m told. The arrival of the Raiders in 2020 and the Vegas Golden Knights’ through-the-roof attendance got MLB’s attention.

And, according to a source close to baseball’s inner circle, it will be sorted out in within three to five years. That will give prospective ownership groups and politicians time to work on a stadium site and funding.

Group shot of many of the inductees. Photo: Norm Clarke

Ralenkotter and Logan are the two of the best-connected insiders in town when it comes to the MLB-to-Vegas possibility.

Ralenkotter brought up the subject Saturday during his acceptance speech at the Nevada Broadcasters Association and Foundation Hall of Fame gala at the Four Seasons Hotel.

He told the crowd “We now have evolved into the sports capital of the world. The 51s, the Lights, the Aces, the Golden Knights, and the Raiders. I predict we will soon have a baseball team and an NBA team.”

During his speech, he lauded Logan for building important relationships throughout baseball.

Ralenkotter added, “It was his idea to bring spring training to Las Vegas and what we call Big League Weekend and when we did that, we did something other cities weren’t doing and that was trying to make an event out of exhibition baseball games. That started it and has been successful over the years.  Don also has a long history with the Baseball Winter Meetings so Las Vegas will be hosting them again in December as well as the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game.”

Logan, in his acceptance speech, thanked the many people who helped turn Las Vegas into the No. 1 tourist destination of the past 24 years. He defended Ralenkotter, who has been under siege for months over alleged misuse of public funds. Logan told the audience there is “no better human on the planet” and said “a lot” of the Review-Journal’s reporting “was completely off base.”

Earlier this month, Las Vegas police said there was not enough evidence to charge him, at this time, in the investigation of spending practices. The Review-Journal said the police investigation was not over.

Introduced to prolonged applause, Ralenkotter made no mention of the newspaper’s series of critical stories, although, he said, “I would never change what I’ve done one inch.” He is leaving the LVCVA after 45 years at the end of this month. He thanked the many people who helped turn Las Vegas into the No. 1 tourist destination of the past 24 years.

As the event was winding down, I sat down with Logan for his views on how MLB’s arrival will unfold.

“Henderson will get the stadium,” he said.

If so, what happens to the future home of the AAA Las Vegas 51s, being built in Summerlin by the Howard Hughes Corporation at the cost of $150 million, and due to open in 2019?

Logan said it will become “the best amphitheatre in Las Vegas.”

MLB owners have clearly come around on Las Vegas as a big league city since January 2015, when Rob Manfred replaced Bud Selig as commissioner.

A month later, Manfred said, “there has not been a lot of talk about expansion.”

Last February, he started talking up Las Vegas, calling it a “viable” market, while stressing that the struggling Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays’ situations needed to be resolved before expansion.

In 1987, Denver was holding its breath, hoping to land an MLB expansion franchise. I was covering Denver’s bid for an National League team for the Rocky Mountain News. While attending the Baseball Meetings in Dallas, I received information that the owners were caving into political pressure. The year’s-long process had reached critical mass. On the night of the owners’ gala dinner, I saw one of my best sources, a prominent general manager, on the dais. I approached him and asked if he speak under the condition of anonymity.

He filled me in: Expansion was arriving in the early 1990s and, with it, interleague play. And just as he predicted, Denver and Miami were awarded expansion franchises in 1991, with both beginning playing in 1993. Interleague play was adopted as well. 

It is not unreasonable to foresee a distressed team, such as the A’s or Rays, seeking the $1.8 billion Raiders stadium as their temporary home until a baseball-only stadium could be built. Baseball has made it clear over the year: sharing a stadium is only temporary option. Oakland Coliseum is the only multipurpose stadium that houses an NFL and MLB team.  

The A’s rank 28th among the 30 MLB team in average attendance (18,600) this year and the Rays are 29th (14,600). Miami, a team being rebuilt under new CEO Derek Jeter, is in last place with a woeful average turnout of about 9,600.

The 2018 Hall of Fame class included:

--Hank Thornley, Lifetime Achievement Award. Channel 8’s first anchor, Thornley, who is 100 years old, attended the gala.

--Ralenkotter, President’s Award. He has been with the LVCVA for 45 years, after starting in marketing.

--Logan, Community Achievement Award. He wanted to be a lawyer or an agent. Instead he became an account executive with the Las Vegas professional baseball franchise in 1984 and worked his way up, serving in numerous executive roles.

Other inductees:

Jack Abell, Las Vegas broadcaster since 1964; Melissa Carlson, KRNV and Fox11, Reno; Judith L. Green, KVVU Fox 5; Mark Murakami, KRNV sales, Reno; Kelly Sheehan, Lotus Broadcasting, Las Vegas; Alan Roberts, on-air radio personality, Las Vegas; Ronda Van Winkle, KPMV-TV and Ace Country Radio, Nye County; Paul Grant, KRNV radio, Reno; Malayna Joy Kerton, radio-TV personality, Northern Nevada; Mercedes Martinez, host of “Mercedes in the Morning,” KMXB-Mix 94.1 and Las Vegas NOW! KLAS, Channel 8; Julie Pyle,  At KTNV-TV since 2004; creator of “Morning Blend;”  Trevor J. Smith, KOH radio, Elko;  Steve Teshara, Lake Tahoe radio; Jay Slater Charleton, Reno radio; J.C. Fernandez, co-host on “Mercedes in the Morning” and Las Vegas NOW! KLAS-TV; Marilyn T. Miller, directing, producing and programming, Las Vegas; Kim Wagner, co-host “News 3 Today,” KSNV-TV, Las Vegas; Boze Anguay, Las Vegas photojournalist; Wade Barnett, SNG operator and chief photographer at KOLO, Reno; Miriam Gonzalez, traffic manager, KOLO; Edward Francisco Greene, newscast director, KSNV-TV, Las Vegas; Jeffrey K. Howard, Las Vegas film critic; Frank “Zomboo” Leto, host of “Zomboo House of Horrors Movies” since 1999 at KOLO; Penny Teshara, radio and TV, Lake Tahoe and Carson City; William Roe, KLAS-TV photographer I-Team; radio and TV, northern Nevada; Willie Garrett, marketing, KSNV; David Clevidence, brand manager, CW Las Vegas and MYLV TV; Dave Chapman, advertising and on-air personality, northern Nevada; Bo Jaxon, worked at OLDIES 108 and KLUC in Las Vegas before moving to Denver when he had success as program director and afternoon host at KIMN and 92.5 The Wolf; Patricia Miller, marketing consultant/team leader at Sinclair Broadcasting; William J. Simonds Jr., master control, KRNV; William “Willobee” Carlan, former director of broadcast  operations and PD, Reno; Cat Thomas, longtime Las Vegas on-air personality (KLUC) and PD; Mark Jacobs, Las Vegas photojournalist who got his break at age 14 when he was mentored by KLAS legend Bob Stoldal and went on to an award-winning career; Jay Taylor, on-air talent at KLUC from 1986 to 1991 before moving the California and Ohio; Mark Easter, his stops include KOLO and KRNV TV4 on the creative side in Reno.