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Cashman Field / Las Vegas 51s

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Surprisingly. there's little glitz at the home of professional baseball in Sin City. Chances are good you will not be making a special trip to Las Vegas to attend a Las Vegas 51s game. Nor should you: neither Cashman Field nor the 51s are worth a special trip. But if you find yourself in Las Vegas and want to escape the casino for some sorely needed sunshine, you may want to head up Las Vegas Boulevard and take in a 51s game.

FAST FACTS

Year Opened: 1983
Capacity: 9,334
Dimensions: 328L, 364LC, 433C, 364RC, 328R
Playing Surface: Grass
Website: lv51.com
Phone: 702/798-7825
League: Pacific Coast League
Level: Class AAA
Affiliation: Toronto Blue Jays
Parking: Large lot next to the ballpark accommodates all.
Address/Directions: 850 Las Vegas Boulevard North, Las Vegas. Las Vegas Boulevard is more widely known as The Strip, and virtually everything in Las Vegas is measured by its proximity to the Strip. If you're coming from the south -- where most of the glitzy casinos lie -- you'll want to follow Las Vegas Boulevard through downtown and past I-515; Cashman Field is a half-mile past the overpass, on the right.

Built in 1993, Cashman Field is an intimate, low-key stadium. The Oakland A's played some of their home games here when Oakland-Alameda County Stadium was being renovated, and there some major-league events, such as home-run derbies and spring-training games, held here as well.

But let's not kid one another: MLB uses Cashman Field because it's in Las Vegas, not because it's a great facility. For MiLB and the 51s owners, the issue is hanging onto the Vegas market. Indeed, the word for Cashman Field is functional -- and it's little more than that. Oriole Park West it's not.

For the most part, the ballpark looks like a standard-issue Pacific Coast League facility: all of the seating is between the foul lines, a second level contains press facilities and suites, and there are some decent views of mountains beyond the outfield fence.

Be warned that it will likely be a long haul from your parking spot to your seat. (Then again, this is Vegas: there's usually a long hike between the front desk and a hotel room.) Most of this is due to the unique layout of Cashman Field: you need to negotiate a large area between the parking lot and the actual grandstand, followed by a two-story concourse leading to a mezzanine level. From there, you go down to your seat. The mezzanine level contains most of the concessions (see more below).

The key to choosing a seat at Cashman Field is finding something in the shade. During a day game, Row L is the first row of the shaded area, with section 9-15 (theater-style seating with drinkholders) under the overhang. One nice touch: a misting system, located in the Plaza Seating area in the grandstand, keeps you cooled off on a hot desert day or night. There are two types of seating at Cashman: the final two sections down each line are all bleachers, while the remaining open section are a mix of theater-style seats and bleachers. 

Concessions
The usual suspects: hot dogs (both regular and kosher Hebrew Nationals), popcorn, chicken tenders, hoagies, beer. Grand Slam Lager and Sam Adams are on draft for $5, with Michelob Ultra, Amber Bock, Foster's, Sam Adams Summer Ale and Bud Select also available. A roving vendor offers Jose Cuevo margaritas from a backpack. The wide concourse and high number of stands do allow you to hit the concessions without missing too much action on the field.

PARKING
Cashman Field is part of a larger complex that includes a convention center and other city facilities. There are two levels of parking. I made the mistake of parking in the upper level and walking down to the ballpark, which ended up being quite a hike once the game ended. You will want to be smarter and park in the lower level.

FOR THE KIDS
There's not a lot at the ballpark for kids except for a small play area on the second level down the third-base line. 51s merchandise -- with the alien motif -- will probably be the best diversion for children, though.

PARKING
A large parking lot adjoins the ballpark and services the whole Cashman complex.

BALLPARK HISTORY
Cashman Field opened up in 1983 as the home of the Las Vegas Stars, the pre-51s name of the franchise.

WHERE TO STAY
The closest hotel to Cashman Field is the Best Western Parkview Inn (921 Las Vegas Blvd. N.), across the street from the Cashman complex. It is also resoundingly dull, and you don't go to Vegas for dull. (You also don't go to be in peril, so avoid the Downtowner Motel.)

The closest cluster of decent hotels close to Cashman Field is in downtown Las Vegas, where most of the larger joints are less than a mile from Cashman Field. (The walk between downtown and Cashman Field isn't the most scenic and sometimes a little creepy, although it's generally not unsafe.) There are some who swear by downtown Las Vegas -- mostly older folks who have been going there for decades -- and there's a certain Rat Pack quality to the area as well, though there's far less of that hip vibe downtown than the Las Vegas marketers would have you believe. The Golden Nugget is the largest downtown hotel/casino, and it's also the swankest: a recent overhaul added the shine back to the place. It certainly is expensive for a downtown hotel: $129 on weeknights and $185 on a weekend. Better buys include the El Cortez (600 E. Fremont Street), built in 1941 and still cheap -- $55 on a weekend; Fitzgerald's (301 Fremont Street); the Four Queens (202 Fremont Street); Binion's (128 E. Fremont), where weekend rooms can be found for under $65; the Golden Gate (1 Fremont Street); and the Plaza (1 Main Street).

This is old-style Vegas, occupied by lots of regulars and staged in relatively cramped quarters. Sure, many of the downtown casinos offer shows of some sort, but basically downtown is for gambling and eating. The gambling isn't as good as it used to be -- single-deck blackjack, once a staple of downtown gambling, seems to be an endangered species. Slot machines, the game of choice for the mindless gambler, have displaced blackjack tables in places like Binion's, where blackjack and poker once ruled.

That leaves eating as a prime diversion. The downtown restaurants are surprisingly good: Binion's Ranch Steakhouse is one of the best in town (and the location at the casino's top floor features great views; go after dark) while Hugo's Cellar in the Four Queens is still renowned as a gourmet romantic spot.

The thing to remember: on the low end, downtown Vegas rooms are not the best, nor should you expect them to be. They're strictly crash pads, as you're expected to spend your time out on the casino floor or in the restaurants.

The next accessible cluster of hotels is located close to the Las Vegas Convention Center, a short drive away from the ballpark on Las Vegas Boulevard. If you're in town for a convention, there are several moderately priced properties within walking distance of the Las Vegas Convention Center, such as the Sahara and the Riviera.

If you're heading to Las Vegas for intense partying, you'll want to stay further down the strip, where Las Vegas Boulevard meets Paradise Road. At that intersection are a host of hotels in a variety of price ranges. The Flamingo and Bally's are both midpriced by Vegas standards; the rooms at Bally's are better than at the Flamingo, but it's usually easier to get rooms at the Flamingo. (Avoid the Imperial Palace: its rooms are cheap, but the place is inconvenient and tacky.) Similarly, Planet Hollywood is very affordable. For those with a few more bucks to spend, there are Caesar's Palace, the Venetian and Treasure Island, while the Bellagio and the Wynn are at the top of list in terms of price and comfort.

Then, of course, there are the trendy sports away from the Strip. The Hard Rock made staying off the Strip the thing to do, and the Rio and the Palms jumped the trendiness quotient thanks to celebrities and wild parties nightly. Also off the strip are hotels and casinos catering mainly to locals, like Main Street Station, Palace Station, Sam's Town and Terrible Herbst, as well as airport hotels lacking gaming floors.