by BRETT CURTIS
A little known fact is that professional baseball has been an important part of Salt Lake City culture for nearly a century. Since the birth of the Salt Lake City ball club, in March of 1915, the team has undergone many name changes and venue adaptations. The club was initially known as the Salt Lake Bees and retained the name for many years. Next, the team was known as the Trappers (the team’s name changed many times at this point and was called the Angels, the Gulls, and the Giants). This series of name changes began in 1950 and went on for forty years. I first knew the team as the Buzz in 1993, after which the name was changed to the Stingers for a short two–season time period and it has come around full circle to be called the Salt Lake Bees anew.
The team name is not the only thing that has changed. In the history of the franchise, stadiums also have come and gone, and changed names multiple times. Demolition of the ballpark has happened by means natural or of man power; construction and stadium name changes have been a common reoccurrence in its lifespan. In this article, I will discuss the evolution of team and stadium names and construction of the current stadium. Independent of the team and stadium name changes this extraordinary part of Utah’s history has undergone, one fact has remained unspoiled. The park’s northwestern cornerstone has sat and will continue to sit at 1300 South and West Temple, and hundreds of thousands of fans will visit annually to enjoy an exhibition of America’s favorite pastime.
When first constructed in 1915, the stadium was given the name Community Park; it retained this title and facade for a little over two decades, until it burned to the ground on the night of September 24, 1946, as throngs of spectators gathered to observe the consuming inferno. All this happened just four evenings after the team finished the Pioneer League Playoffs. Construction of Derks Field began in early Februrary of 1947 and was completed just in time for the Bees home opener on the 23rd of May in that same year. (Deseret News, May 30, 1947)
The team was forced to commence its season with twenty-two consecutive away games because the project was in the final stages of completion. The park was named after John C. Derks, the “dean of baseball,” a longtime Salt Lake Tribune writer, a sports editor, and baseball advocate who died just two years prior to the field’s opening. The stadium commemorated Derks until its demolition in 1992.
During that year, fans arrived to discover a deteriorating edifice where 1,500 of 10,000 total seats were sectioned off and condemned to public use. The concrete was unsafe and unsound for spectators and the decision to close a portion of the park was made due to a lack of structural integrity on the third baseline section between home plate and into the left field bleachers. At this point, demolition of the existing park and a rebuilt stadium it its place was in the best interest of stakeholders, including Salt Lake City Mayor Deede Cordini, who came into office and jumped at the opportunity to go out with the old and in with the new in the form of a stadium that would attract a larger fan base and provide sports fans with peace of mind and needed safety. (Deseret News, April 19, 1992)
The task of building the new park was given to Adams & Smith, Inc. The project called for 952 tons of steel and took two years to complete — a lengthy period when considering the design’s simplicity. The park, named Franklin Covey Field, opened in 1994 with a spectator capacity of 15,500 people. Three years later, the park was renamed Franklin Quest Field due to the merger of Franklin Quest (day planners and time management company) and Covey (time management seminars). When it opened, one source observed: “Franklin Covey Field was one of the first of the new, double-decked AAA stadiums, and it’s a beauty.” (Jarvis)
The name of the diamond changed again in April 2009 when it became known as Spring Mobile (this is the park’s name to present date). This ballpark has been and will continue to be of great importance to Utah’s rich recreational history. The franchise is second only to the Jazz in numbers of fan spectators over its lifetime. It is important in communication because the general public knows very little about the park’s history. This article was written as a tool to educate a mass number of those who have long appreciated The Bees without knowledge of the evolution of the team or stadium’s interesting history. The relevance of this brief history is to both Utah citizens and baseball fans round the globe.
Brett Curtis is a senior at The University of Utah. He is majoring in organizational communication and minoring in Brazilian studies. He is a Realtor at RAN Life Real Estate and is a native Utahn with a “fever pitch” for the game of baseball.
Eric Pastore , Wendy Pastore, and Fred Sagebaum. “Derks Field.” Baseball Reference.com.
“Smoking and Voting,” The Deseret News, March 2, 1964.
“At Cavalcade,” The Deseret News, July 3, 1965.
“Old Timers Tilt Set Saturday,” The Deseret News, July 30, 1967.
Lex Hemphill, “History of Neglect Has Plagued Derks,” The Deseret News, April 19, 1992.
Dee Chipman, “Derks Roof? One Problem …,” The Deseret News, March 5, 1963.
“Ready for Cubs, Bosox Derks Field Takes on Polish,” The Deseret News, April 4, 1965.
Hal Schindler, “Utah Grows Up With the New Century,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 28, 1996.
Interview with Craig Wirth, University of Utah Adjunct Professor, April 7, 2010.
Interview with Dave Curtis, a Bees fan who attended games in the 1950s and 1960s, April 7, 2010.
Gary Jarvis. “Franklin Covey Field.” Minorleagueballparks.com.