Sparks, Washoe Officials Tour Ballpark

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Sparks and Washoe County officials and others took in some California baseball action Thursday, but the trip was all in the name of business.

The visit to Raley Field in West Sacramento, Calif., to watch the Sacramento River Cats play the Portland Beavers was arranged and paid for by Clarence "CJ" Jones, managing partner for Sierra Nevada Baseball.

The group is trying to bring a Pacific Coast League team to northern Nevada and pushing for a Triple-A stadium to be built by Sparks Marina.

Initially, the group said it wanted a new stadium to open by 2005, but on Thursday a year later was more likely.

"I think it will be built," said Sparks Councilman Mike Carrigan.

The project got a boost when the Nevada Legislature approved a bill authorizing Washoe County to impose a surcharge on car rentals to help finance it. Officials estimate that portion would pay for about 60 percent of the $39 million cost.

The rest would be financed through revenue bonds. Backers pushed back the proposed opening date until 2006 after learning the earliest Washoe County could sell the bonds would be in February.

A key to Sierra Nevada Baseball getting financing approval from the county is acquiring a team.

"CJ has basically come to terms for a franchise now," Bruce Breslow, former Sparks mayor and spokesman for the baseball group, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"When we go before the county commission in the fall, we will have a team."

But Breslow said that's also a risky move.

"If we don't get approved by the county commission, we own a team in a different town," he said.

Breslow said Sierra Nevada Baseball won't reveal the name of the team it's trying to buy until a deal is closed.