Here’s what could happen to the Ballpark neighborhood’s identity when the Bees leave SLC

We asked readers and community leaders what they thought about the area’s future if or when the stadium goes.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Ballpark neighborhood in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood is destined for change in the wake of an announcement this month that minor league baseball’s Salt Lake Bees will depart for South Jordan’s Daybreak after the 2024 season.

What will replace Smith’s Ballpark at 77 W. 1300 South — if anything replaces the structure at all — is still an open question, and city officials hope a planning competition will guide redevelopment.

But if the team’s departure ultimately leaves Ballpark, well, ballparkless, should the neighborhood’s name change, too? And if the name were to change, how exactly would that happen?

Salt Lake City Council Chair Darin Mano, whose district includes Ballpark, said he’d be open to keeping or changing the neighborhood’s name, but he hasn’t been involved in any discussions about it.

“There are neighborhoods that are often named after historic elements,” Mano said, “so I don’t think it’s inappropriate for it to stay.”

More than anything, he said, he wants to see residents, not politicians, drive that conversation.

Mano said he hopes the city’s planning competition — what officials at City Hall call Ballpark Next — will spark discussions about the neighborhood’s identity. The contest is open to residents, students and planning and design professionals.

The Salt Lake Tribune asked readers what they thought should happen with the neighborhood’s name and received dozens of responses. Most respondents in the unscientific survey — about 60% — said the area should keep its current moniker regardless of whether it’s home to a stadium.

The roughly 40% who thought the neighborhood should get a new identity proposed names like Westwood, West Temple Neighborhood, The Dugout, Derks Park (an ode to the former Derks Field stadium), Gentry Park, South Downtown, Lower Main (LoMa for short), Grove Park, South Central City and Honeyland.

Some readers said preserving the neighborhood’s name will preserve the city’s history. They were quick to point out — adamantly, in some cases — that there are no more sugar beets in Sugar House, no operating mill in Millcreek, and few bricks being made in Brickyard.

City Hall officials aren’t tasked with naming neighborhoods. Instead, community councils call the shots on name changes with a process through the City Recorder’s Office.

Bill Davis, former chair of the Ballpark Community Council, was responsible for giving Ballpark its current identity. He proposed changing the neighborhood’s name in 2010, when the area was still known as People’s Freeway.

“The problem with that [former name] was that nobody knew where it was,” he said. “If you’re going to work on a neighborhood and try to improve it, then you have to give it an identity.”

Davis, now chair of the Liberty Wells Community Council, said as the Ballpark neighborhood moves forward without a baseball team, he’d like to see the neighborhood keep its name.

“Everybody has memories about it (the stadium),” he said. “And I think to keep the name is just honoring those memories and that heritage and everything else that’s there, because they’re not going away.”

Even if the Ballpark name is relatively recent, the neighborhood is steeped in decades of baseball history. The sport has been played at the intersection of West Temple and 1300 South for roughly a century, with the site drawing the likes of baseball legends Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.

The first iteration of the Bees played there as far back as 1915, at what would later become Derks Field. Nearly 80 years later, the city built what is now known as Smith’s Ballpark to spur a move from the Portland Beavers, the triple-A affiliate of the major leagues’ Minnesota Twins.

It’s because of that history that current Ballpark Community Council Chair Amy J. Hawkins said her neighborhood deserves to keep its name.

Other parts of town, she said, are named after historical structures that weren’t around nearly as long as a baseball stadium has been in her neighborhood.

“But there will be other neighborhood leaders after me,” she wrote in a text message, “and they may feel differently.”

City officials, meanwhile, say they’re staying the course on implementing the ambitious Ballpark Station Area Plan that the council adopted last fall. The plan aims to guide the area’s revitalization and boost activity with elements such as a festival street along West Temple.

At the annual State of the City address Tuesday, Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation (the Bees are owned by the Larry H. Miller Co.) would spearhead a $100 million fundraising effort to invest in the neighborhood.

The public-private partnership will include efforts from Salt Lake City, Intermountain Health and Zions Bank.

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