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Spring Mobile Ballpark / Salt Lake Bees

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Spring Mobile Ballpark

Among the Salt Lake Bees’ ballpark “Facts and Figures” on the team website, there is the unique detail of “VIEW: Sensational.” This is the honest-to-goodness truth: Spring Mobile Ballpark, home of the Triple-A Bees, sits at the feet of the Wasatch Mountains, which rise up beyond the outfield wall with picturesque majesty. 

FAST FACTS

Opened: April 11, 1994
Capacity: 15,500
Dimensions: 345L, 385LC, 420C, 375RC, 315R
Surface: Grass
Owner: City of Salt Lake City
Website: slbees.com
Ticket Prices (2013): Diamond Seats, $26; Field Seats, $19; Box, $17; Terrace, $16; Reserved, $14; General Admission, $10; Knothole Club (12 & under), $5.
Phone: 801/350-6900 (tickets, 801/325-2273)
League: Triple-A Pacific Coast League
Parent: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Address: 77 West 1300 S., Salt Lake City, Utah 84115
Directions: Take I-15 (reachable via Utah SR 201 East and I-80 East) to Exit 305C, 1300 South (from I-15 N, make a left on 1300; from I-15 S, make a right); the stadium is on the right, parking to the left.
Parking: $6 in North Lot, between West Temple and Richards St. across from the ballpark.
Written By: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (January 2013)

The tradition of a Salt Lake Bees baseball team playing competitive baseball in the Pacific Coast League dates back nearly a century, to 1915.

(The Bees, by the way, are called the “Bees” for much the same reason that Ohio State University goes by the “Buckeyes” and the University of Tennessee answers to the “Volunteers” -- it’s reflective of the state nickname.  Utah is the “Beehive State”: the State Emblem is the beehive and the State Insect is the honey bee. From the Utah state website: “Utahns relate the beehive symbol to industry and the pioneer virtues of thrift and perseverance....The Origin of the Beehive as a symbol is associate with Mormon scripture.”)

These have not been uninterrupted seasons, however. During the winter of 1984-1985, Salt Lake City and Calgary switched slots in an unusual move:  The Salt Lake City Gulls departed the Pacific Coast League, replaced by the Calgary Cannons; conversely, the Calgary Expos were replaced in the Rookie-level Pioneer League by the Salt Lake City Trappers. The independent (unaffiliated with a Major League team) Trappers went 46-24 and captured the league title in their debut season, though they drew just 57,683 fans.

The club’s success was not a fluke. Its lack of attendance was.

In 1986, 108,721 saw Salt Lake City breeze to a 45-25 mark and a second championship. In 1987, the total crowds rose to 170,134 as the Trappers scorched a newly expanded league for a 49-21 mark and a third straight title. The team failed to win a fourth consecutive trophy in 1988, finishing only 41-29 before 176,217. (By way of comparison, opposing Pioneer League outfit Medicine Hat drew just 10,553.)

It was clear now that Salt Lake City was one of the most popular teams in the entire country, outdrawing Double-A and Triple-A organizations with half the home schedule. In 1989, the Trappers fell beneath .500 at 33-36 -- and yet they brought in a larger season attendance than 12 Double-A franchises. There was no sign of decline, as 192,366 cheered on the Trappers in 1990; 200,599 watched another championship triumph in 1991; and 217,263 rocked the ballpark in 1992. Baseball in Salt Lake City was booming proudly. It was ready for Triple-A once more -- and Triple-A was ready for Salt Lake City.

Portland Beavers owner Joe Buzas reached out in 1993, agreeing to move his PCL club to Salt Lake City beginning in the 1994 season. A new ballpark, Franklin Quest Field, was erected as part of the arrangement, built at the same location as Derks Field, the historic home of Salt Lake baseball since 1946. Given the chance once again to support a baseball over the course of a full season, Utahns turned out in swarms. The new-look Twins-affiliated Salt Lake Buzz played for crowds totaling 713,224; no other team in the Pacific Coast League attracted more than 377,000 fans. 

The Buzz continued to top the PCL in attendance right through the end of the decade, with the crown only taken from them in 2000 by the dual attractions of a new ballpark in Memphis and a new franchise in Sacramento.

In 2001, Salt Lake changed its affiliation to the Angels and its nickname to Stingers (due to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets owning the right to the name “Buzz”).

In March 2003, Buzas passed away, with the team sold to Larry Miller, owner of the NBA's Utah Jazz. Miller had the team renamed the Bees in October of 2005, honoring its tradition and history.

The ballpark’s name was changed from Franklin Quest Field to Franklin Covey Field in 1997, taking its current name of Spring Mobile Ballpark in April 2009.

With its proximity to the Major Leagues, Salt Lake has hosted a fine standard of talent since rejoining the Pacific Coast League in 1994, providing the foundation of the Minnesota Twins’ perennial playoff contenders before watching the Anaheim Angels win the World Series in the second year of the clubs’ partnership. Notable Major Leaguers who have come through the Beehive State include A.J. Pierzynski, David Ortiz, John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Howie Kendrick, Kendrys Morales, Nick Adenhart, Mark Trumbo, and, most recently, Mike Trout.

Spring Mobile Ballpark continues to stand out nearly two decades after opening. Its capacity of 15,500 remains the largest in the Pacific Coast League. It is located 4,229 feet above sea level in a capital city that both historically and currently has demonstrated its love and support of the national pastime.

And its view is as sensational as ever.

Photo via flickr.com.

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