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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
For more than two decades, Smith’s Ballpark has been home to the Salt Lake Bees of the AAA Pacific Coast League. This is the largest ballpark by capacity in the PCL with seating for 15,411. Over the years the Bees have served as the top level affiliate for the Minnesota Twins, but as of the 2001 season they have been affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. An extension agreement has been reached so that the Bees will continue their relationship with the Angels at least through 2016.
While the ballpark itself has a bit of a generic feel, there’s still a lot to like about the experience of seeing a Bees game. Without a doubt though, the majestic view of the Wasatch Mountains, highlighted by Mount Olympus directly behind center field is the absolute highlight of a game at Smith’s Ballpark. There may be no better view in all of sports.
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".
There is a decent selection of food and drink at Smith's Ballpark, but little to get excited about. The highlight of the menu can be found at the hot dog stand found in the interior side of the concourse. Here you'll find the nacho dog ($7.50), southwest sausage ($6.75), all-star hot dog ($7), and bratwurst ($6.25). They are all very large and fairly tasty.
At the main concession stands you'll find Philly-style cheesesteak ($7.25), Buffalo chicken tender sandwich ($7), cheeseburger ($6.25), and foot-long corndogs ($5). You can add fries for anywhere between $1.25-$2.50, depending on the item in question (the inconsistency seems strange). Speaking of fries, they are good here, with garlic fries or cheese fries ($4.75) a good option.
Coca-Cola products are the soft drink options at Smith's Ballpark. Grab the 32-ounce souvenir sized cup for the best value, and a cheap souvenir for $5, or a regular size for $3.75. Powerade or Vitamin Water is $4.25 and bottled water is $3.75. On a colder night you may opt for a coffee or hot chocolate ($3.50).
Generally when it comes to seating recommendations, a lot depends on the preferences of the baseball fan. But in the case of Smith's Ballpark, there is really only one correct choice. Sit in the upper deck, preferably directly behind home plate, for one of the best views in all of sports.
The seating throughout Smith's Ballpark consists of green chairback seating with above average legroom and cup holders for each seat. There are a lot of seats between aisles (18-24 seats in most cases), so you may want to sit in the middle if you're the type who tends to sit still and watch the action. If you choose an aisle seat on a night with a large crowd, then you can expect to get up and down a lot to accommodate wandering fans.
The outfield wall is completely covered by ads, with the exception of the portion below the hitter's eye in center field. This could be a distraction in other ballparks, but those mountains win again in this case.
As you walk around the ballpark, you'll notice that the concourse is open and you can keep an eye on the game at all times. The outfield seating consists of a high berm, where many fans choose to bring a blanket and stretch out. There are also a few picnic tables in this area.
Look up as you walk the sidewalk beyond the outfield wall and you'll see the Walk of Fame with former Bees players who have gone on to great things in MLB each getting their own light post banner. The names include Mike Trout, Jeff Weaver, Francisco Rodriguez, Torii Hunter, David Ortiz, Chone Figgins, John Lackey, Todd Walker, Mark Trumbo, and A.J. Pierzynski.
If you hear a bell during this walk, then make way for the "Bumble Express," a small passenger train that gives rides to kids along the sidewalk behind the berm for most of the game. Rides are free and the line forms near the left field foul pole, and takes kids to the right field foul pole and back.
The elevation at home plate is 4,229 feet above sea level, and with that thin air, you would expect a lot of home runs in this ballpark. That is offset somewhat by the fairly large dimensions of the field. It is 345 down the left field line, 385 to left center, 420 to straightaway center field, and 375 to right center. The official distance down the right field line is only 315, although it quickly juts back toward the deeper distance. Still, left-handed power hitters must get excited when they play at Smith's Ballpark.
You are only a few miles from downtown Salt Lake City, but you will most likely be driving or taking the light rail to get to a neighborhood where there is a lot going on. That said, there is one must-stop destination just a block away from the ballpark. It looks like a divey barn of a 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.
If you have the time, be sure to make the trip about three and a half miles north to see the spectacular Utah State Capitol Building, as well as some of the architecture of some of the religious buildings in Salt Lake City, including the Salt Lake Temple. It really is a beautiful city, and very walkable if you don't mind the occasional hill.
On an average night, you can expect Smith's Ballpark to be about half full, with more than 7,000 fans in attendance. This is usually good for around 4th or 5th in the Pacific Coast League in terms of average attendance. Salt Lake City is more than 500 miles from the nearest MLB ballpark, so for many fans, this is the top level of baseball within a reasonable drive. The continuity of the affiliation with the Angels helps to improve the buy-in from fans, and while they may watch most of the action casually, it is clear that they care about this team.
You can expect the fans to be knowledgeable and friendly, so feel free to have a conversation with the person next to you, dressed in black and yellow.
Parking can be found in numerous lots around Smith's Ballpark, some controlled by the Bees and others by independent vendors. The nearest lot is for season ticket holders, or you can find a spot across the street for $6. You can use the address of 1180 S Paxton Ave if you are choosing this option. You'll find other lots charging between $3-$7.
If you like to arrive early, then you should find some limited street parking along 1400 South, or on Jefferson nearby Lucky 13 (which would be my recommendation of a place to park).
Salt Lake City has a great light rail system, and there is a stop (Ballpark) just a couple of blocks away from the home of the Bees. A one-way fare is $2.50, or roundtrip is $5. If you will be touring the city a bit, then consider getting the all-day pass for just $6.25.
Inside the ballpark, it is very easy to move around, with plenty of room on the concourse. Fans in a wheelchair or unable to climb the stairs to the upper deck have the small elevator as a possibility, found about halfway between the base and foul line on either the left or right side of the concourse.
Restrooms are a little on the small side, and feel outdated. It is impossible for you to wash both hands at the same time as the sink faucets must constantly be pushed down. The Bees should find a way to automate their bathrooms to improve hygiene and ease of use for fans.
Ticket prices range from $10-$27.Seniors, students, or military personnel receive $1 ticket prices. For a seat in section 109 or 110 so you have that fabulous mountain view, then it will cost you $16. This seems like a fair price. When you add in the price to park, have something to eat, and a beer, then you're looking at a cost of less than $40, and less than $100 for a family of four.
The Bees also offer numerous regular promotions to help fans save money. This includes Monday family night (four tickets and hot dogs for just $20), Kids eat free on Tuesday, $1 hot dogs on Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursdays (where drinks are only $2.75), and 2-for-1 berm or general admission seats on Sundays.
Overall, whether paying full price or taking advantage of one of these deals, you'll feel like you got your money's worth.
College students in the area should also look at the season pass deal, where you can receive admittance for every game of the season for just $50.
The mountain view is well worth an extra point. You won't find too many better views in sports.
If you're in the area, but not at the game, or if you like to bring the radio broadcast into the game with you, then you won't go wrong listening to Steve Klauke on AM 1280. He's been with the Bees since their inception, and will call his 3,000th game in June of 2014.
Bumble, the Bees mascot, does a wonderful job of making his way around the ballpark, and interacting with fans. The job of a mascot is a difficult one, and often goes unnoticed, but Bumble knows how to get his business done.
A final extra point for all of the family-friendly activities in the outfield concourse area. There is a playground, a couple of bounce house/games, and the small train. There's plenty to do to keep the kids busy, and at no extra charge.
Come for the view, stay for the baseball. In general, AAA baseball offers fans a chance to experience wonderful mid-sized cities with a high level of baseball being played. You will always have the chance to see a mix of former major leaguers, soon-to-be major leaguers, and hard working grinders who will never make it to The Show. You may even see the occasional MLB player doing a rehab assignment, like the Bees had Josh Hamilton in 2014.
A trip to Salt Lake City to see the Bees is money well spent, and should be on every ballpark traveler's 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...
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