Baseball is seeing a surprising surge this year. An epic ending to the World Baseball Classic, along with multiple rule changes to Major League Baseball that have sped up the game, has led to more interest in America’s Pastime. With MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred saying that they’re looking to expand from 30 to 32 teams, cities are preparing to make a bid.
Last week, Salt Lake City announced a community coalition to try and bring a Major League Baseball team. The news, which was first reported by Building Salt Lake, could lead to a ballpark potentially being built at a 100-acre site currently owned by Rocky Mountain Power in the North Temple area. The bid is being backed by local politicians, business leaders, and sports legends like Steve Young (who shreds at Snowbird) and Dale Murphy.
After hearing about this news, I was pretty stoked. It wouldn’t break my support for the Red Sox, but it would be a squad that I would certainly root for due to my time living there from 2015 thru 2020. It also provides another thing to do in the summer when there’s no skiing. And then I saw the concept renderings of the ballpark with the smokestacks looming over center field… Thanks, I hate it.
The strength of a ballpark in Salt Lake City would be the mountainous backdrop. This is best exemplified by Smith’s Ballpark, which is home to the Salt Lake Bees, which is the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. Unfortunately, this space is too small for an MLB ballpark, which is why they want to use this North Temple site.
I’m not alone in this viewpoint. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Andy Larsen polled people about the smokestacks and here were the results:
Fans: would you prefer smokestacks or no smokestacks in the backdrop of a potential SLC MLB stadium?
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) April 12, 2023
I think that maybe the move is to angle the stadium a bit to avoid the smokestacks. Maybe demolishing two of them and keeping one would work. But I think keeping the smokestacks past the center field would definitely hinder the beauty of it. This is ultimately early concept renderings, so it’s not set in stone. As a police officer in Spongebob once said…
Not everyone shares my viewpoint though, as demonstrated by KSL sports anchor Sam Farnsworth:
The possibilities with the smoke stacks are endless. Light them up one at a time for each out of each inning. Paint them to look like baseball bats. But my favorite… have fire shoot from the tops of them when home players hit homers.
Idea from @huutransuperman #MLBinUTAH pic.twitter.com/y4tBOniDKc
— Sam Farnsworth (@Samsworth_KSL) April 12, 2023
I also think the stadium design comes off as very bland, which has become commonplace at modern ballparks (i.e. Globe Life Field in Texas). The grass past the outfield fence is a nice homage to Smith’s Ballpark, but it needs something more to represent the state of Utah. I’d personally like to see some red rocks, mountains, or maybe even a small canyon in the outfield stands.
Salt Lake City faces stiff competition among small to medium-sized cities that want a team. Las Vegas has been vying for one in recent years, but they’re likely to snag the A’s, whose fledgling franchise has failed to find a new ballpark in Oakland.
The other potential competitors are Nashville, Portland, Mexico City, and Charlotte. Charlotte and Mexico City have yet to formally announce a bid for an MLB Team but could be strong markets. Mexico City would instantly have one of the largest markets in baseball but has also yet to announce a bid.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, which has around 2.6 million people in its metropolitan area, has more inhabitants than Portland, Nashville, and Las Vegas. This doesn’t factor in our unofficial estimate of 2.6 million ski bums that will move there this year due to all the snow that they’ve gotten.
I think that Nashville has the strongest bid of them all, with backers, a growing metropolitan area, and previous history in the Triple-A and the Negro Leagues. Some of the backers include Dave Stewart, Tony La Russa, Justin Timberlake, and Don Mattingly. They would likely be named the Nashville Stars, which was the name of the Negro League team that played there from the 1930s through the 1950s.
While Portland has a solid bid, I imagine the rising crime issues in the city, which is making some businesses shut down, could make MLB choose somewhere else. In addition, one of Salt Lake City’s backers is Dale Murphy, who won the MLB MVP award twice. He originally was for the Portland bid, but he believes Salt Lake is better due to the following factors:
“After playing nearly two decades in the MLB, I know what it takes for a city to successfully host professional baseball. Salt Lake City has it all: a young and growing population, a prime ballpark location, a booming economy, and a dedicated community of supporters. ”
Overall, I think Salt Lake City has a lot of potential for an MLB team due to a meteoric economic outlook, plentiful land, and financial backing that other bids don’t have yet. While I would prefer an NHL team first due to it being more on-brand for the area, this could also be in the works.
In order for them to succeed, the City needs to be able to handle its environmental issues, like the Great Salt Lake, and clean up its ballpark plans to become either the 31st or 32nd team in Major League Baseball. In terms of team name, I’ll go with…The Baseball Club Of Latter-day Saints.
Image/Video Credits: Big League Utah, Salt Lake Bees, Music City Baseball