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Sign of times: Las Vegas billboard lures rival fans

The new stadium injects new energy into the city's downtown. The new team is the pride of Arizonans. But the big sign beyond centerfield tells fans to visit Las Vegas _ Arizona's rival in the tourism game.

That's left local tourism officials crying in their $6 beers when they visit Bank One Ballpark, even if they're apparently not upset enough to shell out the cash for their own sign.

The bright red-and-blue sign that reads only "Las Vegas" has prompted an outcry from representatives of the area's $5-billion tourism industry.

David Radcliffe, president of Phoenix & Valley of the Sun Convention & Visitors Bureau, cringes every time a television camera puts Las Vegas in the spotlight for local and national television audiences.

"It's disappointing to have something like that in our own back yard," he said. "It takes away some of the visibility for our own city."

Radcliffe says he could have prevented the situation by buying the space for an Arizona or Phoenix ad. But he said he didn't know the space was up for sale, and he doesn't think he could afford it.

Radcliffe took his case to Diamondbacks president Rich Dozer in a recent letter. The two have since talked, but the Diamondbacks don't plan any changes.

"The bottom line is that the Bank One Ballpark and the Diamondbacks speak volumes for Phoenix," said Scott Brubaker, who is in charge of the team's sales and marketing. "They've got the plum and Las Vegas has the pit."

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is paying $459,000 for a one-year package with the Diamondbacks, with options for renewal in 1999 and 2000, Las Vegas tourism authority spokesman Rob Powers said.