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Investors eager to make run at Salt Lake ballpark development. Will Bees be there?

With city planners and developers eager to make a run at Salt Lake ballpark development, there’s a wild card putting a freeze on things: Will the Salt Lake Bees (Triple-A; Pacific Coast League) be part of the mix?

It’s a complicated situation in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, to be sure, as we outlined last week. The city and developers are eager to move forward with a development plan for the city’s Ballpark neighborhood–an area sorely in need of TLC–that would make an upgraded Smith’s Ballpark the centerpiece of a facelift. You would think this would be great news for the Bees ownership, with the overall plan calling to make the ballpark more of a multievent venue by opening parts of it to the neighborhood.

But the Larry H. Miller Company–which still owns the team, despite a management deal with Smith Entertainment Group (owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and an investor in MLS’s Real Salt Lake)–has been noncommittal about a lease extension for the Bees. Talk in Salt Lake City has the firm looking at a new ballpark on Miller-controlled 1,300 acres in the 4,000-acre Daybreak development in South Jordan. Heading to the suburbs is not the way ballpark development is happening these days, but mixed-use development anchored by a new sports facility certainly is.

Or, some argue, a new MLB ballpark in the Daybreak development. In either case, the silence from the Miller group is putting Ballpark neighborhood development on hold. From Building Salt Lake:

It also comes as developers who already own significant amounts of private property keep an eye on the negotiations. And despite the impending upzoning and promises of major civic investments from the city in the neighborhood, developers are taking two different approaches to their inholdings in Ballpark: they can either wait to see what happens or forge ahead….

“We’ve heard from the city, and we know they want the Bees to stay. We’ve heard from [the Larry H. Miller Group], and they say that they’re committed to continuing conversations with the city,” said Aabir Malik, vice president of development with the Colmena Group, which co-owns two parcels immediately west of the stadium. “However, they haven’t said that they are committed to staying long term. 

“From our standpoint, the fate of the Bees in Salt Lake is still up in the air,” he said. “We don’t want to move too soon – we want to move in concert. Just knowing some of these other big moves that will take place in the short term will help dictate what we do on those sites.”

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