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Official Review by Dennis Morrell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
2016 marks twenty-two years of baseball in Salt Lake at Smith’s Ballpark and you would easily believe the stadium was nearly new. It is impeccable. Where any structure can get a makeover or cleaning to make things look good, and this place is spectacular, it is the magic of the people who really contribute to making the experience at this ballpark so enjoyable. They come from all levels from the concession stand worker to the public relations staff; first class through and through and it shows.
This franchise understands how to keep things fresh with the right balance of ingenuity and variety and all of the subtle, intended touches which make a difference. It might help that the team’s owners also operate the NBA’s Utah Jazz, but truthfully, that would sell short the influence the people of the Salt Lake Bees make to the baseball experience.
Just how good is the experience here? Well, Better Homes & Gardens included Smith’s Ballpark in the Top Ten, a list which included MLB venues. Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery, Alabama (Class AA - Southern League) was the only other minor league stadium to have this distinction.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
You can learn a lot about what level of effort a franchise gives to their concession offerings with a quick five-minute stroll through the main concourse. The impression during that walk is typically the right one and this ballpark provides an immediate favorable impression. With a diverse variety, aromas which kept my interest, and conversational employees serving with a smile the challenge I had was deciding what to order. A feature not common at the stands when ordering at many ballparks saw many of the finished products on display at the stands.
Of note Tom's Smokehouse BBQ where Greg, the lead chef down the right field line, is helpful in explaining the BBQ and the Stacked Smokehouse Burger ($9, add a side for $1). You can build it yourself, one of the displays features thick patties packed with chili. There is something about a burger with a large watermelon wedge that is tough to resist. You can also build a BBQ plate with two sides for $10, there are lots of choices.
Just beyond this area closer to the foul pole is a new venture, Sweet Corn and Potato Roasters. Loaded baked potatoes ($4.75) and roasted corn ($3.50) are the rage here. You can add a little more to that price for each topping.
Specialty sausage and hot dogs can be found at Frank's Grilled Dogs & Sausages behind sections 6, 14 & 21. The array of choices is endless and you will have trouble deciding what to eat here.
Other food choices include Jumbo Hot Dogs are $4.75, 8" pizza are $7.25, shelled peanuts are $4.75, sunflower seeds are $4.50 and ice cream in a Bees mini helmet is $6.50. While condiments are not normally something of note here Fry Sauce is the condiment of choice on burgers and dogs. A special combination of ketchup and mayonnaise made popular by the Utah-based Arctic Circle restaurant chain. It is not in all condiment areas, you have to look for it.
Details in and around Smith's Ballpark add to the atmosphere, in a subtle and appropriate touch crosswalks leading to the stadium are yellow gold with a distinct honeycomb detail providing a fitting entrance to The Hive. Light posts are adorned with logo banners curbside as the main plaza is decked out with plenty of space and free of clutter for gatherings.
Some ballparks are built into the ground and fans enter at street level, but not here. Fans ascend quite a few steps before reaching the main concourse. On the concourse the team store is located to the left and starting line-ups are posted along the wall.
Directly behind home the Wasatch Mountains can be seen beyond the outfield wall providing a majestic backdrop few ballparks can compete with. Fans looking for shade should consider the right field side for all games.
A massive scoreboard in right center provides video replay and pitch count (upper left corner). Between it and the batter's eye is a large covered picnic area for groups to rent. The Kid's Area is behind the scoreboard and the kid's choo-choo train is behind the left field foul pole, the latter to bring attention to safety and sponsored by TRAX, the light rail system which is a great way to get to the game.
The Bees take up the 1st base dugout and the visitors take the third base dugout. Box seats are protected with high netting which stretches from section 8 on the 1st base side through section 18 on the 3rd base side.
Tickets range from $5 for Knothole Members (with $13 membership) to $26 for box seats. For most tickets, a $1 surcharge for day of game purchases apply. The best seat for the money is in the upper deck of right field in section 105, $13 ticket in advance, a $1 more on game day. This section is closest to home plate, but this price range on this side of the field stretches to 101.
Weekdays over some great deals such as Monday night and the 4 tickets and 4 hot dogs for $20, Tuesday Dollar Dog Night, $2.75 drinks on Thirsty Thursday and postgame runs on Friday and Saturday nights for kids under 12.
This neighborhood consists of a mix of industrial, residential, and retail which feels a bit odd. There is not much to choose from for a meal near the stadium but street parking is somewhat plentiful. However, be careful of the residential permit areas. There is one must-stop destination just a block away from the ballpark. It looks like a dive type bar, but inside you'll find a fantastic selection of craft beers and some of the best burgers in the world. The establishment is called Lucky 13, and it is absolutely one of the facets that makes or breaks a trip to Smith's Ballpark.
Outside of the immediate area, places to check out include, Ensign Peak, Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon, listed north to south and each with a distinctly different enjoyment, east of the city amidst the Wasatch Mountains.
The Bees have not always been affiliated with the Angels, previously having been the Twins AAA affiliate from 1994 through 2000. Along the outfield walkway between the foul lines, fans can see former players honored with large vertical banners on poles which sway with the wind.
Talk to these fans and they have great pride in watching their Bees make it to the big leagues. An example being that in the team store Bees jerseys with the Mike Trout name and number on the back are sold. These jerseys are such a popular item the team is having trouble keeping them on the shelf.
Located just east of Highway 80 at 1300 S street, Smith's Ballpark is pretty easy to get to by car. Street parking is available but again be careful of the areas marked only for "resident parking". If you prefer a lot, $5 seems to be the best price you will find.
The TRAX light rail train is a convenient way to get to the ballpark. At $2.50 each way, the nearest station is just two blocks west at the Ballpark station.
You get what you pay for at a Bees game. On the surface, some of the ticket prices and more than a few of the food and drink prices were a little steep. But considering the quality of the experience at this venue, the highest level of minor league baseball and the ability to save on other expenses it really isn't that bad.
In fact, you can tell the Bees, perhaps taking a page out of their sister franchise, the NBA's Jazz, push the limits on pricing. It's only margin and if people think the prices are too high, they will stop buying. It seems they have struck the right balance.
The programs are small size and thick with an insert to provide updated rosters and statistics. Free when you walk through the door, it is another nice touch.
As far as merchandise, the store is right behind home plate behind section 14. The variety of merchandise is endless, particularly with the plethora of throwback caps and jerseys. The wall of caps is impressive with Gulls and Buzz hats at the upper end of the $20-$35 cap range.
There is ample open space to enjoy the game with a group while dining in the baseball atmosphere. There is ample space to bring very large groups in the outfield and the lawn seating above the wall is enormous and popular.
People, as in most cases, really make a difference and everyone at Smith's Ballpark is incredibly conversational and friendly. They provided insightful facts which helps with the enjoyment of the experience.
Incidentally, one might wonder about the origination of the team name. Bees have long been a symbol of Utah. The original name of the Mormon settlement, Deseret, is said to be the word for "honeybee" in the Book of Mormon. Also, a beehive appears on the Utah state flag; the state motto is "Industry" (for which bees are known); and Utah is widely known as the "Beehive State".
Witnessing a ballgame at Smith's Ballpark in Salt Lake City, Utah is special and here's hoping the details above explained just why you need to put it on your bucket list.
Member Review by dmortimer
In most places, baseball in 1994 was tumultuous. The eventuality of the players' strike loomed ominously over each major league park. Baseball die-hards sought refuge in the minor leagues, particularly the beautiful, brand-new Franklin Quest Field in Salt Lake City, home of the expansion Salt Lake Buzz.
Neither the team nor the stadium currently bear the same name, but Spring Mobile Ballpark, home of the Salt Lake Bees, remains as much a crown jewel of the Pacific Coast League in 2011 as it has ever been.
Member Review by Baseball Buddha on Apr 11, 2014
I attended the day after I went to a Reno Aces game, I had high hopes, I loved the view of the mountains at the Salt Lake stadium, but the hospitality was the complete opposite of the Reno! I was greeted nicely when I came in but that was it. It seemed like customer relations was just doing there time... They didn't generate much excitement. I enjoyed the game but I just was never comfortable, hard to explain...
135 West 1300 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
1301 South State St
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
350 N State St
Salt Lake City, UT 84114
50 W North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
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