Sports Facilities Sharing: Las Vegas Leads The Way
“You wouldn’t even know they played soccer here on Saturday. When they’re here for soccer, they’d never know we played baseball two days prior,” says Jim Gemma, media relations director for the Las Vegas Area 51s. For several months of the year, the 51s share Cashman Field with the Las Vegas Lights Football Club, switching from pitching mounds to soccer nets — a situation shared by other minor-league teams, from Fresno, CA to Louisville, KY.
It’s also a scenario many leagues can identify with: space for practice and play is often at a premium and few organizations have proprietary facilities. Finding the right spot can increase your league’s appeal, but having to fit in between other teams and activities can seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be.
Keep Calm And Communicate
Communication is essential when multiple teams are coordinating; it’s also important in establishing a relationship with your facility. “Communication from the program is huge” explains Joanna Johnson, a former facility manager for NXTsports, “Is their insurance certificate in, do they pay the fee in a timely fashion?” Keeping the lines open also extends to the concerns of players and their families: make sure guidelines about parking, restrooms, etc. are established and shared in advance.
Part of communication is accepting what you hear. “Some people get mad when you cancel for bad weather, some people get mad when you don’t cancel,” says Johnson. If a league has guaranteed a certain number of games in a certain window of time, agitation is understandable. “If two weeks during the spring get rained out, where do you fit those times in? The week after might already be booked by someone else.” She says schedules can be juggled into place, but all parties must be available to discuss alternatives and be willing to carry them out.
Know Your Place
Using the same space for different sports can seem like a magic trick. Brett Lashbrook, owner of the Las Vegas Lights, says, “If you go to a Lights game, you’d never know it’s a baseball stadium. We take out the mound, we cover all the dirt, we cover the baseball signs.”
Job started today at Cashman Field in Las Vegas! World Sports was hired to convert this field from baseball to soccer and back again – SEVEN TIMES, so it can be shared by the @51sbaseball LV 51s MiLB team and the brand new @lvlightsfc LV Lights Soccer Team. Go #LV51s #LightsFC pic.twitter.com/k9dTWvUzjH
— World Sports Solutions (@WorldSportsCo) January 23, 2018
Both Lashbrook and Gemma rave about the Cashman Field ground crew who make the transformation happen, but most non-professional sports facilities don’t offer such constant service. “We couldn’t ask for the fields to be relined every other day,” says Joanna Johnson. “It was better to focus on a certain kind of group that could be in the same setup. She explains that “lacrosse and field hockey can play on the same field but there’s drastically different lining, there are different goals put on the field. So while the inclination may be to go where you’re the only football/softball/field hockey game in town, it may be easier to find space where your game is already being played.
More Sports Equals More Opportunities
Look at field sharing not as getting a smaller slice of space, but as offering league participants something more. The cross-pollination can benefit participants: Junior Division coaches might watch Little Leaguers, high school athletes might get a close look at next-level play. It also helps the school community because players can meet coaches and coaches can meet players that may become their players in the future.
A place with multiple sports can also be a boon to parents with kids in multiple programs. “A facility that offers a lot helps the parents kind of centralize where their family is,” Johnson points out, adding that distance is important, but so are other things a facility has to offer. “Does it have good clean bathrooms and a playground for when I bring my 5 year-old along, or is it just a field in the middle of nowhere?”
— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) June 6, 2018
Do the Las Vegas Area 51s and the Las Vegas Lights see that kind of cross-pollination? “There’s definitely fan overlap,” says Lashbrook, “The more and more we can get people to walk into Cashman [Field], the more and more they’re going to realize, ‘Hey — this is pretty cool.’”