Blueprint Unveiled for Triple A Stadium in Sparks

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Little Leaguers rounded the bases on a chalked infield and backers of the Sierra Nevada Baseball group gobbled peanuts and Cracker Jack near the Sparks Marina Monday where plans for a Triple A minor league ballpark are moving closer to reality.

More than 100 people gathered around a tent at the vacant lot just north of Interstate 80 as architects for the firm that designed stadiums for the Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants unveiled the final blueprints for the stadium that would seat 9,000 and cost just under $30 million.

"We're still on budget and still on schedule," said Lyle Miller, project manager for the Kansas City, Mo.-based HOK Sport + Venue + Event.

"It's a great site. The views to the mountains are spectacular," he said.

"This is a fan friendly ballpark. We have some unique things that have never been done in any other ballpark, minor league or major league."

Bruce Breslow, a former mayor of Sparks and ex-sportscaster who is the baseball group's marketing director, said he is optimistic both Washoe County and the Sparks City Council will give final approval to the stadium in late September or October.

If they do, Miller said the project likely would go out for bid at the end of the year or early next year.

"We hope to break ground in February or March and then in April 2006, `Play ball,'" he said.

Both governments have given tentative approval to the plans. Sparks City Councilman John Mayer said Monday he's confident the stadium will be built.

"I'm so excited. I don't see any major roadblocks in the way. They have a good financing plan in place," Mayer said.

The plans call for 5,500 fixed seats on four different levels and 1,500 club and sky box suite seats. A sloping grass hill ringing the outfield fence will accommodate another 2,000.

Breslow said all 30 sky boxes have been presold with a waiting list. He said the goal is to offer the grass tickets for $5 each.

Miller said the designers used stone, glass, stucco and steel, and picked colors to establish a theme consistent with the mountains and the marina area. Canopies will resemble sails, he said.

A children's playground area is planned along with a group picnic area. Some of the unique aspects include three different sections of bleacher seats near the left field foul pole that Miller said was "inspired by the mountains" and reminds him of the outfield bleachers at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

"I don't know what they'll end up calling it but I call it the `Rock Pile,'" he said.

Four hundred seats will front the glass-walled club lounge, which features a stone fireplace and full service bar. The back of the club also is glass, affording views of Mount Rose and the Sierra Nevada range.

Current plans call for a grass infield and synthetic outfield, but that could change, Miller said. Breslow acknowledged some other changes also still could take place, calling it the "almost, almost, almost final design."

Pacific Coast League President Branch W. Rickey was on hand to offer his support in January when the Washoe County Commission approved a preliminary agreement for the stadium, including a 2 percent tax on most car rentals to help pay for the project.

Rickey has pledged to help find an existing or future PCL team willing to relocate to northern Nevada for the 2006 season. Breslow said there would be no public discussion of potential teams until after the stadium receives final approval.