Driving Force Behind Ballpark Effort Dies

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Clarence "CJ" Jones, the driving force behind an effort to bring minor league baseball back to the Reno area, has died.

Jones was the managing partner of Sierra Nevada Baseball, a group trying to locate a Pacific Coast League team in northern Nevada and pushing for a Triple-A stadium to be built in Sparks.

Jones suffered multiple health problems and was hospitalized last week, said Bruce Breslow, a friend and spokesman for the baseball group. He died over the weekend while undergoing an emergency procedure at Washoe Medical Center.

He was 63.

"He's been sick for a long time and knew his days were numbered," Breslow said Monday.

Breslow and other partners backing the effort said Jones' death would not hinder the project.

"He wants to see the kids going out and watching baseball again," Breslow said.

"It was CJ's dream that this project be a legacy for the community that gave him so much over his lifetime. We are dedicated to honoring his dream," Sierra Nevada Baseball said on its Web site.

Born in Elko, Jones played collegiate baseball at the College of Idaho and settled in the Reno area, Breslow said. He was a developer and youth sports coach.

Jones is survived by his wife, Candace. A son, Kevin, died previously in a construction accident.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Sparks.

Jones' death was announced the same day Sierra Nevada Baseball met with Washoe County commissioners and other elected officials to update them on the effort.

"Until CJ passed away, this was the 'go' day. Though CJ isn't here, it still is," Breslow said.

"It's a sad day for us personally because we lost one of our best friends," he said. "It's not a sad day for baseball."

Reno has been without a minor league baseball team since the Reno BlackJacks of the independent Western Baseball League moved to Marysville, Calif., in 1999. The last local team affiliated with a major league club was the Reno Silver Sox of the Single-A California League in 1992.

The stadium plan got a boost by the 2003 Nevada Legislature when it approved a bill authorizing Washoe County to impose a surcharge on car rentals to help finance it.

During Monday's presentation to elected officials, the group said plans call for the stadium to be owned by Washoe County, with the prime tenant being Sierra Nevada Baseball.

Sierra Nevada Baseball was "poised" to purchase an unnamed Triple-A franchise, but stadium financing needed to be in place before the deal can be completed, the group said. Sierra Nevada Baseball would own the franchise and keep it in its current city until the new stadium is built.

"The big thing I've seen in this process is, we've had no nay-sayers," said Phil Zive, a former Sparks councilman and who will assume the role of the group's managing partner.

Backers said they hope the ballpark can be ready for the 2006 baseball season.