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Vote on Smith’s Ballpark reuse goes to the She Plays Here proposal

After a popular vote saw support for Smith’s Ballpark reuse as a women’s sports facility once the Salt Lake Bees (Triple-A; Pacific Coast League) lease ends, Salt Lake City now needs to confront the hard details: how to make such a conversion work.

How to reuse old ballpark is a perpetual issue in the baseball world; we ruminated on the issue here. A ballpark has a very specific use design, so that’s why it was fascinating to see the results of a competition held by the city of Salt Lake City on potential reuses for the facility. One proposal that caught out attention–and apparently the attention of many others–would repurpose the ballpark for women’s sports, converting the diamond to a soccer pitch and adding a smaller softball field. It would also, per the Salt Lake Tribune, use “West Temple as a festival street, adding a library on Main Street, creating space for food trucks and turning the parcel north of 1300 South into a development with offices, shops, a day care, a business incubator, green space, and a parking structure with a green rooftop.” (We cover the proposal in depth here.) The city made awards in three categories, including student and neighborhood, but the proposal receiving the most attention was the She Plays Here Ballpark proposal.

The next step for Salt Lake City is to issue an RFP for a conversion plan. And, as is true most of the time, the devil is in the details. But the city begins with plans for a $100 million philanthropic initiative to fund the project, so that’s a great start. The proposal mentions a move of the NWSL’s Utah Royals to the facility, but that may be wishful thinking: the 2024 expansion team is owned by the Real Salt Lake owners, set to play out of Real Salt Lake’s home soccer-specific stadium (roughly double the size of the Smith’s Ballpark conversion) and train at the same location. Moving the team to the city–and giving up some revenue in the process–may be a big ask for the Utah Royals owners, especially when you compare an MLS soccer-specific stadium to a transformed ballpark with some very awkward sightlines. NWSL soccer may not be the answer, but with women’s sports on the site, a college/youth tournament venue may not be the worst idea.

Still, the scope of the initial proposal is ambitious, and there should be some ambition behind a plan that would heavily impact a neighborhood that could use some help.

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