Steps have been taken for the University of Utah Utes to construct their own on-campus ballpark within the next few years.
Athletic director Chris Hill acknowledges that meetings have taken place between the Utes and the City of Utah. At the core of their ongoing discussion is Sunnyside Park, 14,000 square feet of which would be acquired by the Utes to expand Ute Field, their current practice facility.
Under the current proposal, Ute Field would be converted into a 2,000 seat ballpark with an artificial turf field. The hope is that the surface will not only be more adept at handling a variety of weather patterns, but also make it more usable for non-game day events. In order to complete their plan, the Utes need to move the ballpark’s footprint 30 feet from its current spot along Guardsman Way, necessitating the acquisition of land from Sunnyside Park, which sits beyond the outfield wall.
Currently the Utes play at Smith’s Ballpark, the home of the Salt Lake Bees (Class AAA; Pacific Coast league). While the Utes and the Bees have a good relationship, the Utes feel that a new facility would not only be easier to manage from a scheduling standpoint, but would allow the program to grow. More from Desert News:
Sharing the facility, though, has become increasingly difficult because of scheduling and other demands. As such, Hill and folks at the university have embarked on a very similar effort to what was done for the Utah softball team. They moved into a new facility when the George S. Eccles Student Life Center was constructed on campus. The Utes have played at 1,410-seat Dumke Family Stadium since 2013.
“It’s all about fundraising, and we’re hoping that over the next year we can get things lined up,” Hill said of building something for baseball. “We then can start going out to bid and stuff.”
Hill declined to put a specific timeline on it, but said it’s a great naming opportunity for a major contributor because of its location on Guardsman Way, one of the more visible streets in Salt Lake City.
Conceptual plans for a baseball stadium surfaced at the program’s annual fundraiser in February. Hill acknowledged that the sport currently has the worst on-campus facilities on the hill.
“I think it’s one of the big pieces left for us,” he said of getting something done for the program. Fundraising efforts are ongoing.
The Utes’ proposal would be more conducive to other Pac-12 Conference baseball facilities than Smith’s Ballpark, which has a capacity of over 15,000. At 2,000 seats, the Utes would have something similar in size to the University of Washington, which in 2014 completed a renovation that bumped Husky Ballpark to roughly 2,200 seats.
The slated cost of this project right now is $7.5 million, though there is not a firm funding plan in place. Under the current timeline, 2018 is the earliest that the ballpark would open.