Arts & Humanities

Aggies Sweep Salt Lake City's Contest to Reimagine Baseball Park

Utah State Aggies swept a Salt Lake City contest to help officials decide what's next for Smith's Ballpark, seen here in 2015. (Photo Credit: Edgar Zuniga Jr., CC BY 2.0)

LOGAN, Utah — When the owners of the Salt Lake Bees announced they were moving their minor league baseball team to the suburbs, Matthew LaPlante was initially very sad.

"We took our daughter to her first baseball game when she was 10 days old," the Utah State University journalism professor said. "It felt like we were losing part of our family's history."

But LaPlante quickly recognized a big opportunity: The ballpark could easily become a home for another sports team. Quickly, a vision was born — and a few days later he wrote about his idea in The Salt Lake Tribune, and soon he was hearing from people from all over Utah who wanted to help convince the city to reimagine its stadium as a home and hub for women's professional and semi-pro soccer, rugby, football and other sports.

Among the early and most active coalition members was Shannon Woolley, a 2011 graduate of USU and now the team president of the Utah Vipers, who play in the nation’s top amateur division of women’s rugby.

On Wednesday, May 31, the "She Plays Here" plan was the winner of the professional developers' category of a contest run to help city leaders evaluate public support for what to do with the soon-to-be-empty ballpark — and the winners of the other two categories were Aggies, too.

In a category reserved for proposals from Salt Lake City residents, Aggie alumnus Oscar Arvizu, a 1995 graduate of Utah State University, was the winner of the public vote for his design that would turn the stadium into a park with a tropical garden biodome. In a category for post-secondary students, USU Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning student Nicholas Tate Barney and his team won for their idea for a market and park.

"It's really great to see USU's fingerprints all over this contest," LaPlante said. "The winning proposals are all incredibly thoughtful and really quite beautiful."

The contest is non-binding, but Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the winning proposals would "inform whatever we create" on the 13-acre stadium grounds.

"I think all of us are pretty excited," LaPlante said, "but we also know we still have a lot of work to do to help the city bring a combination of these visions across the finish line."


Matthew LaPlante
Journalism and Communications Department


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