Utah varsity on-campus baseball stadium plans



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University of Utah new baseball stadium Image: University of Utah

A fundraising drive to construct an on-campus baseball stadium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah (US) is underway following a decision arrived at by the university’s Board of Trustees that grants contingency approval for the project. The proposed stadium would be built on Guardsman Way in Salt Lake City at the site of the current Utah Baseball practice field, and could open as early as 2025.

‘THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH’ quoted the Director of Athletics, University of Utah, Mark Harlan, as stating, “I’d like to thank the trustees for their approval to move forward with this important project to support our baseball program with a stadium on our campus. We have incredible engagement from donors, and we are actively working to reach our fundraising goals.”

The University of Utah is a public research university in Salt Lake City, Utah (US). It is the flagship institution of the Utah System of Higher Education.

The Utah Utes baseball team is the varsity intercollegiate baseball program of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City Utah, United States. The program’s first season was in 1892, and it has been a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Pac-12 Conference since the start of the 2012 season.

The 14,511-capacity Smith’s Ballpark is a minor league baseball park in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the home field of the Salt Lake Bees of the Pacific Coast League and the collegiate Utah Utes of the Pac-12 Conference. The Smith’s Ballpark also serves as the residence of the Utah Utes baseball team.

Indianapolis (US)-based the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student-athletics among about 1,100 schools in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

San Francisco, California (US)-based the Pac-12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference that operates in the Western United States, participating in 24 sports at the NCAA Division I level. Its football teams compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the highest level of college football in the United States.

‘THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH’ stated that the Utah Utes baseball team has shared Smith’s Ballpark in downtown Salt Lake City with the Salt Lake Bees Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team as its primary home park since 1996.

In January 2023, the Bees ownership announced plans to move the team and build a new stadium in South Jordan, Utah (US). The Salt Lake City is currently in the process of evaluating plans for the future of the site on which the stadium currently stands, including the possible demolition of Smith’s Ballpark after the Bees’ final season in 2024.

Added Harlan, “We’re very appreciative of the terrific partnership we have enjoyed for nearly three decades with the Salt Lake Bees and the City for our baseball program to play its home games at Smith’s Ballpark. This is also a tremendous opportunity for us to finalize our quest to find an on-campus home for Utah Baseball that has been pursued for nearly 10 years.”

Harlan said plans for the stadium call for a capacity of 1,200 with fan amenities including concessions, restrooms and ticketing offices, as well as team facilities including locker rooms, team spaces and coaches’ offices. The total project is expected to cost $35 million, with the majority of the funding privately raised.

The university has been evaluating potential sites for a new ballpark on campus for nearly a decade. The process began with as many as eight potential sites, narrowed to five by a study in 2019, including two locations on Guardsman Way.

Continued Harlan, “The goal and purpose for this location on Guardsman Way are that it provides the most beneficial site for our baseball program and our fans. For our student-athletes, it is situated in close proximity to other Athletics facilities, including our dining facility in the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center, and for our fans, it provides ample parking and ease of access on gamedays.”

Robin Burr, the university’s Chief Facilities Officer, affirms that the proposed location is in alignment with keeping the campus sporting venues located along two key corridors – the central campus and the Guardsman Way. The university is sensitive to concerns raised by the community during previous planning sessions and is working to address issues related to traffic and parking, noise, field lighting, and safety. Utah Baseball hosts approximately 22-24 home games during a typical season, from March through May. Generally, half of those games are played in the evening.

Burr says community feedback from previous planning sessions about the stadium informed the design process – “Noise, light, safety, and traffic have been the consistent concerns raised, and our design addresses each of these factors. This new design is also scaled back from proposals and fits nicely on the space we have designated.”

The ultimate vision for the facility, Harlan says, is that the ballpark becomes a community asset – “We look forward to working with our neighborhood partners to construct the best facility for our program, our fans, the nearby residents and the Salt Lake City. Providing a turf baseball field in Salt Lake City, intended for joint usage with the community, will be a tremendous asset that benefits all levels of baseball in Salt Lake City.”
 

Proposed Baseball Stadium

The University of Utah baseball team will have a home of its own on campus – potentially as early as the 2025 season – based on plans presented to the university’s Board of Trustees on April 11th.

The Salt Lake City is currently in the process of reimagining how to use the land which could involve demolishing the existing stadium.

As the planning and fundraising process moves forward, the university will keep the campus community and the Salt Lake City neighborhoods around the campus informed and involved.
 

Scouting Sites

The university has been evaluating possible locations for a new ballpark on campus for nearly a decade and has looked at as many as eight potential sites. A study in 2019 narrowed the sites down to five, including locations on Central Campus, South Campus, the university’s West Village, and two locations on Guardsman Way.

While the first choice was the Central Campus location, that site was selected as the home for the U’s new Impact and Prosperity Epicenter living-learning facility which will open in 2024. Ultimately, the location of the team’s current practice facility on Guardsman Way was determined to be the next best site.
 

Factors that planners considered included:

  • Compatibility with ongoing campus planning and growth;
  • Meeting student housing needs;
  • Preserving an exceptional student experience;
  • Site buildability (not requiring extensive relocation of existing facilities);
  • Proximity to parking in campus lots immediately North of the stadium;
  • Access to other Utah Athletics facilities;
  • Visibility; and
  • Access to public transit.

 

Light-Noise-Safety-Traffic Concerns

  • Safety – Netting will be installed to contain foul balls, just as it is currently in place along the right field line of the team’s practice field on Guardsman Way;
  • Noise – New berms at the outfield will help contain noise. A modern, distributed audio system will focus sound into the stadium;
  • Field Lighting – Lighting will be designed in a way that reduces spill beyond the stadium;
  • Traffic and Parking – Games will generally occur at low-traffic times on evenings and weekends. Parking will be available at two adjacent campus lots immediately North of the stadium site:
    • Guardsman Way: 869 Stalls; and
    • Rice-Eccles Stadium: 1,196 Stalls.

 
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