The Las Vegas 51s appear to have begun making final decisions on their new moniker, no longer linking the team to unidentified flying objects or aliens. Their new name, which will coincide with a new stadium in Downtown Summerlin, looks as if it could be the Las Vegas Aviators, according to multiple reports this afternoon.
First reported by detroithockey.net along with sportslogos.net, a lawyer with the Howard Hughes Corp. — which owns the 51s franchise as well as the new ballpark — has filed for 16 domains related to the Aviators name as well as the Twitter handle, @LVAviators. The team could not confirm a decision on the name, only going on record that it is a “contender.”
“Aviators is among the names with the most submissions and we think its a contender,” Las Vegas 51s Media Relations Director Jim Gemma told Sin City Sports Mockery. “We moved to protect it in order to make sure it remained an option rather than fall prey to cyber-squatters.”
The name makes sense for Hughes Corp., as its founder — Howard Hughes — was one of the world’s most recognizable aviators. The 2004 Hughes biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio was even titled, “The Aviator.” Of the 16 domain names, the trend seems to confirm Aviators in some form or another. Some of the geographical indicators include Las Vegas Aviators, Vegas Aviators, Summerlin Aviators, Nevada Aviators and Downtown Summerlin Aviators were also reserved.
News of a potential name change came in April, with the team asking the community for its own suggestions. Names included quality suggestions like the Atomics and the Rat Pack, while many fans seemed to giggle at others, such as “Baseball McBaseball Face.” While keeping with the theme of Vegas was important, it is also a brand owned by a local corporation looking to continue building its notoriety in Downtown Summerlin.
The 51s moniker was instituted in 2001 from its original name, the Las Vegas Stars, after the team switched affiliates from the San Diego Padres to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers were not pleased with the facilities at Cashman Field, the team’s current home, and pulled out in 2008. The Toronto Blue Jays took over until 2010, when Mandalay Baseball Properties sold the team to the Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC, a joint venture of Howard Hughes Corp. and Play Ball Owners Group.
The stadium itself broke ground this past February in the lot immediately next door to City National Arena, the practice facility for the city’s darling major league sports team, the Vegas Golden Knights. The project will cost an estimated $150 million, $90 million of which is earmarked for the stadium itself. It will join Hughes Corp’s already growing development in the Summerlin area.
While a name change and construction on a new home seem to be nearing a solution, the parent organization for the the Las Vegas 51s/Aviators in 2019 has not been decided. The New York Mets, the current parent club, announced it would be moving its triple-A franchise to Syracuse in 2019. With a new stadium in tow and a renewed faith in Las Vegas pro sports teams, it won’t be hard to find a taker.
Frontrunners for a parent club include the Oakland A’s and the Arizona Diamondbacks. There looks to be quite a bit of organizational movement this offseason, which started when questions arose whether or not the Nolan Ryan-run Round Rock Express would switch affiliates from the Texas Rangers to the Houston Astros. The Diamondbacks are already in Reno, but a shorter flight between their top minor league affiliate and Chase Field in Arizona may be a deciding factor.
Of course, Oakland seems like it’d be a good fit, considering the Las Vegas Raiders open up their first season in Sin City come 2020. The park itself could be constructed in a manner allowing for expansion, if Las Vegas were able to eventually woo a Major League team here to town. Stealing two Oakland teams in less than a decade would not make Bay Area fans very happy but, hey, they still have the Golden State Warriors.
Let’s try not to offend some Oakland-area Raiders fans. They’re still a tad salty the Raiders are leaving town again, this time for the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Whatever comes of this, the new name should garner plenty of positive reactions as it isn’t something strange, it fits with the city’s iconic aviation hero, and it has plenty of corporate partnerships written all over it. Too bad Cosmo, the Jar Jar Binks-looking Las Vegas 51s mascot, can’t come along for the ride. We definitely don’t need a mascot resembling Howard Hughes in his unfortunate final years. I think I’d settle for Launchpad McQuack instead.