LOCAL NEWS

Could Salt Lake City or Daybreak stadiums be the A’s ‘temporary’ home?

Jan 19, 2024, 4:27 PM

Gail Miller new Bees stadium groundbreaking...

Gail Miller, center, smiles after throwing dirt at the celebration and groundbreaking event of the new Salt Lake Bees ballpark and Phase 1 of Downtown Daybreak in South Jordan on Oct. 19, 2023. The stadium may be the home of the Oakland A’s for as many as three seasons with it opens in 2025. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Major League Baseball could come to Utah much earlier than anyone anticipated.

The Oakland Athletics executives are scheduled to visit Smith’s Ballpark this week as a potential temporary home before the team’s new Las Vegas stadium is ready, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Thursday, citing “a person with knowledge of the trip.”

City officials confirmed there is interest in making Smith’s Ballpark a “temporary home” for the team, but it may not be the only Utah stadium in consideration.

Meanwhile, Larry H. Miller Company CEO Steve Starks issued a statement Friday acknowledging that the company hosted team executives Thursday “and demonstrated we can accommodate their ballpark needs” with the new stadium being built in South Jordan’s Downtown Daybreak.

The A’s announced last year that it will move to Las Vegas, but its new Nevada stadium isn’t expected to be completed until 2028 and its lease in Oakland ends at the end of this season. That means it’s possible the A’s could play three seasons in another market before the final move.

The Salt Lake A’s?

Andrew Wittenberg, a spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, declined to offer specifics of any meetings Salt Lake City has had with the A’s, but he confirmed to KSL.com Friday that the city is interested in letting the A’s play at Smith’s Ballpark while the team is between homes.

“Mayor Mendenhall has always said Salt Lake City is a big league city and thinks Smith’s Ballpark would be a great temporary home for the A’s. Even for a short time, MLB could be a catalytic element for the neighborhood,” he said in a statement.

Wittenberg added that the city cannot comment on “any ongoing conversations around Major League Baseball at this time,” but that the city is “very much look forward to the day when big league baseball is being played in Salt Lake City.”

The Miller Company, on the other hand, has been in “regular contact” with the A’s over the Daybreak stadium, as well, according to Starks. Under that scenario, the A’s would play in the Daybreak stadium that is slated to open in 2025, while the Salt Lake Bees, which the company owns, would remain at Smith’s Ballpark through 2027.

The A’s contacted the Miller Company “weeks ago” about potentially playing in Utah, Starks explained, appearing on The Zone Friday afternoon. That culminated in a market visit to Daybreak Thursday, which included a visit by Utah Senate President Stuart Adams.

“They loved what they saw,” Starks told The Zone. “They see how vibrant Utah is, they see how crazy about baseball the state is and then, looking at the Downtown Daybreak site, that a ballpark there will anchor a sports entertainment district. I think (it) got them really excited.”

He added that the A’s would play in Daybreak because it will have more modern training areas, locker rooms and facilities, while Smith’s Ballpark, which turns 30 this year, was built with “minor league baseball in mind.”

“(Smith’s Ballpark) doesn’t meet the standards required,” he said. “We explored it and it just wasn’t an option and, frankly, we didn’t even tour it with the Athletics because we just knew that it wasn’t going to be a viable option for them or for Major League Baseball.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal also reported that the A’s toured Sutter Health Park in Sacramento, California, on Thursday. The outlet noted that Las Vegas Ballpark, home of the Las Vegas Aviators, the A’s Triple-A affiliate, is in consideration, as is Oracle Park in San Francisco and Greater Nevada Field in Reno, Nevada.

It’s up to the A’s to pick their temporary home, and there’s no clear timeline for when they make a decision.

That said, both Utah options would fit in well with the A’s timeline.

Much like the A’s with Oakland, Salt Lake City’s lease with the Larry H. Miller Company expires this year. Barring any changes, the Bees’ final home game is slated for Sept. 22 before they move out to Daybreak. So if the A’s chose Smith’s Ballpark or Daybreak, they wouldn’t have to share the stadium with another team in either scenario.

More long-term decisions

Wittenberg said the additional baseball wouldn’t change the long-term future of Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood. Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City officials are spearheading the effort on what’s next for Smith’s Ballpark; however, they acknowledge that any new uses for the stadium land could still be “a ways out,” even if a final plan for the site were already selected.

Corinne Piazza, a senior project manager for the agency, said in a Ballpark Community Council meeting earlier this month that the stadium could still be used for festivals and events while future plans are finalized.

“Mayor Mendenhall takes seriously her commitment to residents of the Ballpark neighborhood and is eager to move forward with a long-term strategy that prioritizes year-round activation of that property,” Wittenberg said.

It doesn’t change long-term MLB plans, either.

The Miller Company is leading the effort to bring MLB to Salt Lake City on a more permanent basis. Their plan, supported by a coalition of prominent Utah leaders and residents, calls for a new stadium for a possible expansion team that would be located within Salt Lake City’s forthcoming Power District on the west side.

There haven’t been many updates since then, other than Starks said new proposed ballpark renderings will be released soon. He adds that being the home of an MLB team, even for a short time, may also boost the efforts for a permanent team.

“If we do a great job hosting the Athletics, if Major League Baseball sees what type of support they would have in Utah, it only strengthens our case that we are the best expansion market for them,” he said.

MLB is expected to begin exploring expansion on a wider scale this year.

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Could Salt Lake City or Daybreak stadiums be the A’s ‘temporary’ home?