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Oakland A’s visit SLC in search of temporary home

Larry H. Miller Company confirms A’s executives visited Salt Lake City as it scopes a ballpark for its transition

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The Salt Lake Bees play a game with the Tacoma Rainiers at Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake Bees play a game with the Tacoma Rainiers at Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City on Sept. 7, 2023. A ballpark rezone proposal has the potential to affect over a hundred neighborhood residents and property owners.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Oakland A’s are considering Salt Lake City as a possible temporary home once their lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season.

The Larry H. Miller Company confirmed Friday that it have been in “regular contact” with the A’s, and hosted them Thursday, demonstrating “we can accommodate their ballpark needs,” Steve Starks, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Company, said in a written statement provided to the Deseret News.

“Our organization and the state are excited and able to welcome the Athletics until their new stadium in Las Vegas is completed. In addition to Smith’s Ballpark, we will have a new ballpark opening in 2025 in Downtown Daybreak, South Jordan, anchoring a sports and entertainment district that features first-class player and fan amenities. This new ballpark will support the A’s needs and has been the focus of their interest,” he added.

Among its selling points, Starks said that the ballpark will include ”breathtaking views of the field and the Wasatch Mountains, is easily accessible from Mountain View Corridor and TRAX, and is in the fastest-growing part of Salt Lake County. Our unique, two-stadium solution would ensure that baseball stays in the Salt Lake market as the Salt Lake Bees return to Smith’s Ballpark for additional seasons.”

Andrew Wittenberg, spokesperson for the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office, confirmed the city’s interest in hosting the Oakland A’s while they are in transition. “Mayor (Erin) 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.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that members of the A’s executive team, including owner John Fisher and president Dave Kaval, toured Sutter Health Park in Sacramento, California, on Thursday and will visit Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City, citing a “person with knowledge of the trip.”

Sutter Health Park is the home of the Sacramento River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Smith’s Ballpark is the home of the Los Angeles Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees.

Built in 1994, the 15,400-seat Smith’s Ballpark is the biggest in the Pacific Coast League.

MLB and the MLB Players Association must approve the A’s interim home before the location can be finalized. The team, which is scheduled to move to a yet-to-be-built stadium in Las Vegas starting in 2028, needs to determine its plans before July, when the league releases the schedule for the next season.

The Deseret News first reported the possibility of Utah as a temporary home for the A’s last November. The state can offer not one but two baseball stadiums, and one of them would be brand new.

Larry H. Miller Company, the owner of the Bees, is moving the team from Smith’s Ballpark after the 2024 season to a new stadium it broke ground on last October in South Jordan. The park is slated to open in spring 2025.

The new field is the centerpiece of a 200-acre mixed-use project called Downtown Daybreak the company is building. The stadium would provide not only new locker rooms but top-notch amenities to accommodate a major league team. Plans call for 7,500 seats but that could be expanded to 10,000 or 12,000 to make it more appealing.

Ostensibly, the A’s could play in South Jordan, while the Bees could remain at Smith’s Ballpark for another three years. Or vice versa.

Salt Lake City, which owns Smith’s Ballpark, is considering how to use the stadium space after the team leaves, and has said it doesn’t want to delay those plans.

Per Wittenberg, “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. We can’t comment on any ongoing conversations around Major League Baseball at this time, but very much look forward to the day when big-league baseball is being played in Salt Lake City.”

Salt Lake City spokesperson Jordan Carroll told the Deseret News last November that city officials hadn’t received a request regarding the A’s interest in using Smith’s Ballpark.

“Obviously, there’s an immense amount of excitement and momentum around bringing Major League Baseball to Salt Lake City, especially as a growing number of analysts agree Salt Lake City is where it’s at. We’re ready for MLB expansion but wouldn’t be interested in delaying the rebirth of the Ballpark neighborhood until 2028,” she said then.

Having the A’s in Utah — wherever they might play — would be a trial run of sorts for the Miller Company as it pursues a major league expansion team for Salt Lake City. It could also serve as a measuring stick for Utahns’ interest in a major league team.

Some observers, including ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney and Cy Young Award winner David Cone, have said that after Nashville, Salt Lake City seems the most likely city for an expansion team. Other cities in the mix include Portland, Charlotte, Montreal and Austin.

On Thursday, a Utah Senate committee enthusiastically approved a resolution supporting the Miller Company’s effort to bring a big league baseball team to the Beehive State.

“I think it would be insane if we didn’t do this,” Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, said during the hearing that one lawmaker described as a “love fest” for the measure, which passed unanimously.

“Obviously, we’re all voting yes. But as you take this back to the league, I think the message is probably hell yes, so that’s how I’m going to vote,” McKell said to Miller Company owner Gail Miller, who along with former Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy spoke in favor of the resolution.