What Might Have Been: AAA Baseball in Sparks

For Phil Zive, a big empty lot on Lincoln Way in east Sparks remains a Field of Dreams unrealized. The retired businessman and former Sparks city councilman was part of a local group, Sierra Nevada Baseball, put together by C-J Jones to bring Triple A baseball to the Truckee Meadows.

Friday, as the Reno Aces prepared to take the field at Aces Stadium, a few miles west in downtown Reno, he was one of the few who paused to ponder what might have been.

Zive and the others put 6 and a half years and about $300-thousand of their own money into the effort. As Reno and SK Baseball built their franchise, they were walking a trail already blazed by Sierra Nevada Baseball.

"We were able to get the Pacific Coast League interested. We were able to get the rental car tax through the legislature, he says.

Indeed, for a time the effort looked like a winner. Sierra Nevada Baseball had a team lined up, land on that lot near the Sparks Marina bought and a stadium designed.

"The energy was there. When we didn't have a product to sell we had all the sky boxes sold, the stadium club sold out and about two thousand season tickets sold."

But in the end, Zive's group fell short, missing a deadline set by the county when they signed off on the rental car tax that would eventually help fund the Aces Stadium.

In the end, the project lacked one essential element. "We didn't have anybody with the deep pockets and the connections that were needed and we just couldn't make the dates."

The league put them in contact with interested parties, but nothing ever clicked. Time ran out, the county withdrew its agreement. Sparks handed the ball to Reno and they found the investors that became SK Baseball, the owners of the Reno Aces.

It was a difficult moment for a guy who spent a lot of his young summer nights watching the Silver Sox in rickety Moana Stadium, chasing foul balls. "I still don't believe it."

For the record, Zive says he's rooting for the Aces and as they shout "Play Ball" at the Aces Stadium Friday night he'll be there, but in his heart of hearts it will be a bittersweet moment.

"Really, we did this to bring baseball back to Reno, but with us not involved it hurts a little bit but we're really proud of them to bring it here and to do what they say they're going to do because they are matching a lot of what we promised the community."

Zive admits it was all a labor of love. After intial investments were covered, the business plan of Sierra Nevada Baseball called for the team to be owned by a foundation named for its founder C.J. Jones.
The foundation would have funded scholarships and youth activities.

Zive says he has no doubts the team and the stadium would have been successful in Sparks. With the Legends development just to the south now well underway and other space available near the stadium for restaurants, bars and shopping. The lot on Lincoln Way had many of the same things going for it as Aces Stadium has in downtown Reno

One thing would have been different. Plans in Sparks included full parking. Now there's a concept.

Reporter"s Note: The lack of a big parking lot next to Aces Stadium has puzzled many, including a number of viewers who've called our newsroom. It's location in downtown Reno is, however, part of the city's strategy to draw people to the city's core, helping to support redevelopment. It's a concept city officials say has been successful for business and fans elsewhere.

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