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  • Dirk Facer

Salt Lake City striking out with Bees' move to South Jordan

Boo. That’s my reaction to the Salt Lake Bees' announcement that the franchise is moving to a new stadium at Daybreak in 2025. Moving to the suburbs, mark my words, will not work. I’m not convinced folks will drive out there for games very often — despite so-called easy access via the Mountain View Corridor and Trax lines.


When discussing this with a friend, he reminded me of a couple of similar proves by NBA franchises. The Cleveland Cavaliers once moved to Richfield, Ohio and the Detroit Pistons packed up for Auburn Hills, Michigan.


Both teams, eventually, returned to downtown arenas.


Salt Lake City is the big loser in this situation. Shame on officials for not redeveloping the area around Smith’s Ballpark and its historic roots on 13th South. The area is quite blighted.


Aside from Lucky 13, the nearby convenience stores are a bit scary. An apartment

building on West Temple often has a police car in front of it. The ballpark neighborhood is down and out.


Walking to parking spots after a game can be an adventure. Some free opportunities are not for the faint of heart. There are homeless encampments to navigate and people selling electronic devices or asking for money along the way.


I speak from experience. I’ve worked at the stadium in different capacities since it was built in 1994.


All that aside, losing the Bees to South Jordan is a big loss. Pro baseball belongs in Salt Lake City. In my opinion, the fairgrounds would be a better option. So, too, would be something near town off of I-15.


Cleaning up the ballpark district should be a priority regardless of the impending move by the Bees. It’s a safety issue for all involved. Losing baseball should send a big message in that regard.


Now back to baseball. Yes, teams like Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves are doing well with a move to the suburbs. Others, though, have embraced other locales.


The old Pacific Coast League, now known as Triple-A West, has franchises in and outside of the cities they represent.


— Albuquerque Isotopes: Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park (3.3 miles from downtown Albuquerque).

— El Paso Chihuahuas: Southwest University Park (0.3 miles from downtown El Paso).

— Oklahoma City Dodgers: Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (0.3 miles from downtown Oklahoma City).

— Reno Aces: Greater Nevada Field (0.3 miles from downtown Reno).

— Sacramento River Cats: Sutter Health Park (1.1 miles from downtown Sacramento).

— Salt Lake Bees: Smith’s Ballpark (1.7 miles from downtown Salt Lake City).

— Tacoma Rainers: Cheney Stadium (3.8 miles from downtown Tacoma).

SUBURBS

— Las Vegas Aviators: Las Vegas Ballpark (15.2 miles from downtown Las Vegas in Summerlin).

— Round Rock Express: Dell Diamond (22.7 miles from downtown Austin in Round Rock).

— Sugar Land Space Cowboys: Constellation Field (22.5 miles from downtown Houston).


So, where do the “South Jordan” Bees rank on the list? At 23.4 miles away from downtown Salt Lake City, they will be the team farthest away in the suburbs. The lack of exposure could lead to a tough sell after the new stadium effect wears off. Downtown residents and workers may lose interest. So, too, could baseball fans along the East bench of the Salt Lake Valley — not to mention those in Davis County, Utah County, and others nearby.


It’s a concern as evidenced by a statement released by the ownership


“Larry H. Miller Company is grateful for the leadership of Mayor Mendenhall and her team for engaging with us as we evaluated potential outcomes in this decision,” it read. “LHM is excited about the future of Salt Lake City and will continue to partner with community leaders to enrich and reimagine the neighborhood surrounding the current stadium.”


At the same time, the company released additional comments.


“The privately financed stadium will serve as a year-round entertainment anchor for the fast-growing southwest quadrant of Salt Lake County,” said the announcement.“


That’s the reality. Derks Field and later Smith’s Ballpark will be things of the past. Same goes for the beautiful view of the mountains while watching games.

It’s just a shame.


The Bees averaged 5,873 fans in 2022, the fourth-highest in the 10-team Triple-A West. By comparison, there were that many teams with higher attendance numbers in Triple-A East.


All — Leigh Valley, Columbus, Nashville, Indianapolis, Worcester, Charlotte. Buffalo, Saint Paul, Durham, Rochester, and Iowa — play in stadiums near downtown or within 3.3 miles.


Something to think about.


Salt Lake City is about to strike out.

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