New Reno Ballpark Offers Escape From Troubles The new baseball stadium in downtown Reno — and the arrival of the Aces, a Triple A team playing its first season there — has been seen as a local stimulus package of sorts. The stadium, with all those classic minor league trappings, has created several hundred new jobs and a sense of optimism.
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New Reno Ballpark Offers Escape From Troubles

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New Reno Ballpark Offers Escape From Troubles

New Reno Ballpark Offers Escape From Troubles

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris. When President Obama took office, NPR's David Greene took to the road. His mission -to spend the administration's first 100 days traveling, listening to American stories, and to piece together a portrait of the country in recession. This week, David stopped in Reno, Nevada. He visited the city's brand-new baseball park. And he talked to fans about how they're doing, and how they're feeling about their new president.

Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible) raise this ballpark. We got baseball. We've got hot dogs.

DAVID GREENE: One thing this bad economy hasn't taken away is baseball. This new stadium, the home of the Reno Aces, has that classic minor league feel. Train tracks run right behind the outfield wall.

(Soundbite of train whistle)

GREENE: And yeah, there's a weird-looking mascot on a scooter.

ARCHIE (Mascot, Reno Aces): Wee.

GREENE: The blobby, red creature took a liking to my microphone.

ARCHIE: Hey sir, how are you doing?

GREENE: What are you exactly?

ARCHIE: Well, I'm Archie, what are you?

GREENE: I'm a reporter.

ARCHIE: Oh, good, good.

GREENE: I got to see an afternoon game on Wednesday. Some people are calling this Reno's own economic stimulus plan because the new stadium and ball club have brought hundreds of new jobs.

Ms. CHRISTIANE REYES: I'm ushering, making sure everybody's happy, and they're sitting in the right spots, and nobody's getting hit by foul balls and everything, so…

GREENE: That's Christiane Reyes. She's 28 and last year was a tour guide taking students to Mexico and other countries. But she got tired of all the travel. She desperately wanted to move back home to Reno. It's just Nevada's job market scared her.

Ms. REYES: I knew that coming back home, it was going to be hard to find a job that I was going to be happy with doing. And with the Reno Aces opening up, I -I'm going back home. And I'm going to get myself a job. And that's exactly what I did. And here I am.

Mr. CHRIS ROUNDS: Come on, strike him out.

GREENE: But luck like hers has been hard to come by. Here in Reno, the unemployment rate rose to 11.2 percent last month. And to some of the people in the stands, this baseball game is an escape, a chance to not think about the economy or what's ahead. As I wandered the stadium, I actually heard a guy telling his friend that his unemployment check came just in time to pay for a day at the ballpark. His name's Chris Rounds. I stopped to chat with him.

Mr. ROUNDS: Going to the ballgame, that's what it's all about. Get out and forget about your troubles, you know? You go to a ballgame, makes everything all right. It makes the day go by.

GREENE: Rounds was laid off last year from a heating and air- conditioning company. Most days, he's job hunting.

What's your plan, if, you know, if you can't find anything?

Mr. ROUNDS: Leaving town. I'm going where the money is, but I haven't found it yet. I'm still looking.

GREENE: And he's actually convinced this recession could still get worse.

Mr. ROUNDS: It's going to get tough, but we'll get through it.

GREENE: What do you think of President Obama so far?

Mr. ROUNDS: I'm a Republican, okay?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: So that means you don't like him that much?

Mr. ROUNDS: I don't know if he's done a good job yet, but he's trying. Everybody gets a fair chance, you know?

GREENE: Has he done anything so far that makes you kind of drawn to him?

Mr. ROUNDS: Yeah, he got me a 13-week extension of my unemployment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: You'll take that.

Mr. ROUNDS: I will take that.

GREENE: Another fan here, John Schweitzer, is like so many people in Nevada. He was riding high a couple years ago, thinking about retiring early from his job with the state's highway department, maybe even taking a risk and trying some new career. He was secure. After all, the value of his house was soaring.

Mr. JOHN SCHWEITZER: It was probably about a million one and now, it's probably about 675.

GREENE: And now at 54, he'll stay in that highway job.

Mr. SCHWEITZER: I'm heartbroken over it. I thought I'd be gone by now. But I'm going to continue working. I love my job. And it's a great…

ARCHIE: I love my job too, sir.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHWEITZER: That's the mascot going by. I feel like at my age, I don't have to retire. I just want to do something different for a while. The way things are, I cannot do that.

GREENE: Schweitzer did not vote for President Obama. But he's like a good number of Republicans I spoke with. On the economy, they're rooting for the president. As for Mr. Obama's supporters, I've heard a change since inauguration. There's less buzz about the president's speeches and charisma. People are talking more about specific promises Mr. Obama made and how they really are counting on him. Arline Williams is at work right now.

Ms. ARLINE WILLIAMS: Isn't that awful? And I have cancer. It's depressing. Don't cry, anybody, but no, I'm doing good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WILLIAMS: I'm starting a home-based business.

(Soundbite of stadium)

Unidentified Man #2: Ice-cold beer.

GREENE: She wants to make it easier for people in the hospital to stay in touch with friends and relatives by helping them open temporary email accounts.

Ms. WILLIAMS: When I was in the hospital and sick and going through my treatments, then I would email my relatives back east.

GREENE: Starting a new business is a leap. And she says President Obama gave her the confidence to take it. He's vowed to help small businesses survive. And Williams took his message to heart. There's a lot riding on this. She has a severance package from the slot-machine manufacturing company where she worked. It covers her medical insurance and her chemotherapy for just one year.

Ms. WILLIAMS: And then I'll have to figure it out. Hopefully, my business will take off. And then I can buy my own insurance.

GREENE: Like everyone else, she was eager to get back to baseball. The weather was perfect: 80 degrees, cloudless sky.

Ms. WILLIAMS: Isn't this fun?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: The game could've turned out better. The home team was trampled.

(Soundbite of announcement)

Unidentified Man #1: Your final score, Colorado Springs Sky Sox, 16; your Reno Aces, 8. Thanks for joining us at the ballpark…

GREENE: But even though it was a blowout, very few fans left their seats until the end. They seemed to be savoring something.

I'm David Greene, NPR News.

(Soundbite of cheering)

NORRIS: David's been on the road for nearly 100 days now. Next Wednesday, he'll be online at to answer questions about his travels.

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