Team: Salt Lake Bees
Affiliate: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (AAA)
Ballpark Basics: The Bees Knees of Ballparks.
Ballpark Breakdown: Utahans love their bees. The honey bee became the official state insect in 1983, but Utah’s connection to the insect actually goes back all the way to the first Mormon settlers who named the area “The Provisional State of Deseret” , a word from the Book of Mormon meaning honey bee. Today, Utah is known as the Beehive State, and Utahans take pride in being associated with the industrious bug. From the state seal to state trooper uniforms, you can find bees and bee imagery everywhere you look; carved into buildings, in artwork, in the names are wares of local stores, even their highway signs are in the shape of a beehive. So they didn’t have to look far to come up with a name for the capital city’s Triple A team.
The Salt Lake Bees play at Spring Mobile Ballpark, a gorgeous modern ballpark that raises the bar for other fields in the Pacific Coast League. Built on the site of Derks Field, where baseball had been played in SLC since 1946, the new stadium was built in 1994 and included many features that did not show up in other minor league parks until years later.
The front of Spring Mobile consists of two large brick towers topped with large metal sculptures that almost look like large modern antennas. These two sculptures can be seen peering out over the grandstand. However, this aspect is the only modern part of the ballpark. The brick and steel make up of the park give it a classic feel.
Tucked into an industrial section on the southern part of Salt Lake City, Spring Mobile is just a short walk from downtown. However, there is the occasional highway entrance ramp that you need to traverse and the typical SLC road is six lanes so it can get a bit sketchy at times. The area around the park has a few options to pick up a pre-game meal. We ended up at Coachman’s Dinner and Pancake House, which is like walking into a time warp. The decor (and the prices) are straight out of the 70’s. With huge portions it was a great place to eat your weight in food for just a few dollars.
Walking up to the park we were greeted by a scalper trying to sell us tickets. Since he was actually tying to sell them for above face value we decided to try the box office first. Luckily they had plenty of tickets and the lady working for the Bees was extremely helpful with assisting us pick out great seats to avoid the (once again) blazing Utah sun while also being able to see that night’s firework display.
There are two levels of seating with the club level above the second level so every seat in the ballpark has great view of the action. Beneath the second deck, is a wide concourse where you can still see the field from as you get your food and drink. The concourse wraps around the entire field so you can see the game from almost every angle as you walk around.
Utah is a very family-friendly state so there are many places for families to congregate. There is a large covered picnic area behind right field. A grass berm surrounds the outfield wall with a walkway behind it. Something we noticed at every Utah ballpark was the packed berms. Each one was packed with families rolling out blankets and kids running around. Every ballpark in Utah has a mountain range as its backdrop. While the Wasatch Mountains are a little further away than in Orem or Ogden it does not make it any less spectacular.
One thing that we were completely ignorant of before our Utah trip: Salt Lake City is a beer town. With at least six breweries there is no shortage of local beer and luckily this extends to Spring Mobile Ballpark. Here you will find local beers from Squatters and Uinta. Just like Asheville, NC we wish that they could include flavors from all the local breweries but we also understand how difficult this could be. Another thing that we didn’t know about SLC: It is a firework town. We were there on one of the many, many firework nights at the ballpark. However, throughout the night we were able to see firework displays across the night (some official and some less so).
But, the post-game statewide fireworks were only the second-most exciting thing we saw that evening. With the bases loaded in the first inning outfielder Jeremy Moore hit a long fly ball to center field. The center-fielder lost the ball in the sun (did we mention the scorching Utah sun yet?) as it went over his head. As Moore raced around the bases, the ball bounced off the outfield wall leading to our second inside-the-park grand slam for the season (yes, you read that right.) Even without fireworks and inside-the-park grand slams, the prototypical design and scenic backdrop make this a spectacular place to take in a game.
Baseball Nerd Fact 75: If you want to see three great distinctive ballparks with unmatched views behind the outfield walls it is tough to think of a state better than Utah. With just 75 miles separating all three ballparks it is very easy to make a long weekend trip and see all three parks (if the teams schedules work out for you). Salt Lake City is a surprisingly easy city to access and then it is just a short drive to Ogden and Orem. If you are a fan of Minor League Baseball we highly recommend a trip to Utah in your future.
Rating: Home Run!
Beer basics: Utah has tons of strange laws regarding alcohol, which makes it hard to believe it’s also such a prolific beer brewing state.
We walked off the plane in Salt Lake City, and discovered the airport version of Squatters Pub strategically located directly across from our arrival gate. Ignoring the fact that was 10:30 in the morning, we took this as a sign, and sat down for a beer as a way to kick off our Utah trip…and ended up almost forgetting to go to baggage claim. While we fully appreciated Squatters warm welcome to the Beehive state, we do suggest visiting their main location (we did, multiple times) in downtown Salt Lake as opposed to hanging out at the airport, and paying airport prices.
The original Squatters opened in 1989 and underwent a renovation prior to the Winter Olympics which Salt Lake hosted in 2001, and a three million dollar expansion in 2010. It is housed in a large building, and they have divided the space to maximize the square footage, and give you options for any mood. Part of the “new” addition is a large atrium like room, which they call the Potting Shed with huge windows looking out onto their outdoor seating. This outdoor spot is the “Garden Patio” complete with wood fencing, trees and flowers, and huge retractable canvas to alternately block that blazing Utah sun, or to give you a clear view of the night sky. Inside there is a long bar (divided in half to keep the liquor away) with a mostly wood and windows decor; and finally upstairs is the Loft, a rentable spot for large parties.
After our airport beers, we visited the SLC Squatters several times while we were in town and also stopped in at their Park City location just to round out the trifecta. Just a couple weeks after our July 2011 visit, Squatters announced the purchase of two 200 barrel fermentation tanks and a new 230 gallon bright tank which will allow them to increase production and (hopefully) help them keep up with demand.
Squatters has lots of beers on tap (upwards of nine), and –like many of the beers in Utah apparently – are highly carbonated. In fact, when we describe a beer as having lower carbonation here, it is still highly carbonated in comparison to most other beers. Don’t have time to try everything you’d like? They’ve also got a bottle and cooler case and a gift shop for your convenience.
American Wheat Hefe (4% ABV) – very heavy wheat aroma with a touch of fruit, and these qualities come through similarly in the taste as well. Highly carbonated, banana notes in the flavor, lots of flavor.
Chasing Tale Golden Ale (4% ABV) – Nice golden color. The palate is softer than a typical American Ale but we don’t mean that it is flat or watery. Also not as bitter as we expected, and with a cute name, we’ll give this one a easy drinking thumbs up.
Provo Girl Pils (4% ABV) –. This has a fruity and slightly floral aroma and is very close in color to the Hefe, but filtered. It is also not as carbonated as the Hefe, but is more so than the Golden Ale. Light but golden in color, finishes smooth with a hint of a hoppy bite in the aftertaste,
Organic Amber Ale (4% ABV) – This beer has the honor of being Utah’s first organic beer. It pours a pretty sienna color, but doesn’t have much of an aroma or upfront flavor. Happily, the flavor does kick in mid-sip with malted barley and hops making up most of the palate. Another highly carbonated beer.
Full Suspension Pale Ale (4% ABV) – An orangey golden beer that comes from citrus and pine hops which are both easily identifiable in the bouquet. The taste is bitter at first, giving way to a hint of fruit, one of the best smelling beers we had.
Nitro Cream Ale (4% ABV) – this arrived with a really thick head on a deep golden colored beer. Not very strong, but this beer has a soft, creamy mouthfeel that both tastes and smells of honey and grain.
Vienna Lager (4% ABV) – fawn colored beer with malty aroma and visible carbonation. Smells bready, tastes malted with a hint of a sweet caramel aftertaste. A good, not terribly complex beer that starts strong and settles in the sip.
Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout (4% ABV) – Strong and warm in both palate and aroma, and by far the darkest in color of the Squatters line. It was less carbonated than most of the other beers – which means it still had a medium-high carbonation when compared to a typical stout. Chocolate malts and barley are noticeable in this beer, but overwhelmingly the descriptor that comes to mind after sampling this one is “roasted”.
147 West Broadway (300 South)
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
A note from the authors: Typing the address reminds us how crazy the addresses are in Salt Lake. We may not be great at math, but this system of ### west, ### north doesn’t seem to make sense to non-natives. It’s a great place to visit, but prepare to get lost… a lot. Happily, SLC is becoming quite the beer town so at many wrong turns you can still find good beer. Check back again, as we’ll have some bonus breweries for you to check out on your next visit!