Salt Lake County baseball leagues excited for new Saratoga Springs facility
Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM
● By Jana Klopsch
Copper Hills All-Stars city league team (Photo Courtesy Kristy Pincock)
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By Jennifer Gardiner|
The city of Saratoga Springs broke ground in October on an all-new sports complex. But Patriot Park has more than just the surrounding community excited.
With the addition of six new baseball fields close to the Salt Lake Valley, many local baseball leagues see opportunity for reprieve at a time when city leagues are at capacity and overflowing with an abundance of players and not enough fields.
Salt Lake County baseball programs started to see problems in 2012 when Riverton officials closed one of the city’s baseball parks, forcing the for-profit super leagues to decrease the number of teams that could play in their leagues.
“The loss of seven Riverton fields significantly impacted the availability of fields for competitive baseball in the Salt Lake Valley, and this led to cutbacks of roughly 40 teams in the league at that time,” said Brandon Riley, Utah Select league director. “Utah Select would definitely be interested in exploring the use of the new fields in Saratoga Springs, and it would likely allow for additional capacity again.”
Riley said lights at a ball field are critical, as most of the fields teams currently use in the Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City parks systems don’t have lights.
“This requires early games, as early as 4:30 p.m. and makes it very difficult for parents to get their kids to games without taking them out of school, as most teams arrive an hour before game time,” Riley said. “The little extra travel to Saratoga Springs or other municipalities can be offset with lights, as it allows parents and kids to avoid the negative impacts of leaving school early to play baseball games.”
Dave Gatti, president of Riverton Baseball City League, said he is thrilled to hear Utah County is building another park. He hopes it will help operate a city league program and open the way for more players who want to play in their city to now have a place to do so.
“Cory Wride park is bursting with kids,” Gatti said. “Utah County needs the room, and it will be a great welcome to the baseball community. Right now there are kids of all abilities and skills flooding back into the city leagues, but this can also cause an influx of problems. I think the city leagues could really benefit with new fields that could be able to use the fields.”
Like Riverton, many other city leagues around the valley started to see an influx of kids filtering out of for-profit super leagues and into the city programs simply because those leagues had to downsize their programs over the lack of facilities. Even tournaments were having to be held far away during times that are inconvenient and disruptive for kids in school.
Riverton City League has more than 1,100 participants in its Cal Ripkin League; similar numbers of kids play in Copper Hills and South Jordan leagues as well.
“I believe that city leagues purpose to provide quality rec options for kids of all skill levels that challenge them and fill a need for activity,” Gatti said. “But I could see the need for having a place in the city that kids who just wanted to play ball and enjoy having something to do, and those kids who are more experienced and competitive could play in the same place.”
Gatti developed what is now known as that separation within the city leagues, and it has become what he said is a solution for many teams left wondering how they can continue to play in leagues where there are so many kids and a shortage for coaches. .
“The American League allows kids of any skill level to just play and have fun, without the pressure of having to be overly competitive,” Gatti said. “But they are all a part of the wonderful programs now being offered at city league parks. The National League allows those that are used to playing competitively to also enjoy the same amenities a city league offers but where they can continue to play with kids of the same skill level.“
Saratoga Springs Mayor Jim Miller said leaders in his city recognized the community need for new baseball fields, among the other amenities Patriot Park will offer. Currently, the city doesn’t have any baseball fields, forcing residents to filter into neighboring cities’ baseball leagues. Miller said his sons have played in Lehi leagues for years
After city officials received word that Lehi was no longer able to accommodate Saratoga Springs residents on baseball teams because it left them with little room for its own residents, the idea for Patriot Park came to light.
Miller said the park will bring the community together for fun and recreation, regardless of whether they are baseball fans. While city leaders haven’t fully decided how the baseball park will operate, they are open to the idea that leagues and teams from the Salt Lake Valley may want to use it and that they will most likely hold tournaments at the park.
Patriot Park is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019. It will include six baseball fields, eight pickle ball courts, a playground, batting cages and concessions. The fields will be named after each different branch of the military and will include a memorial for veterans.