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Ballpark Plans Hit a Snag as City Refuses to Sell Land

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Copyright 2017 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

A batter calling his shot at the University of Utah's proposed baseball stadium will need to turn a few degrees to the west.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski informed the U. on Wednesday that after hearing concerns from community members, the city won't sell a portion of Sunnyside Park required to build the ballpark in the school's preferred orientation.

City spokesman Matthew Rojas said in a text message Wednesday that "while the city appreciates the importance of the U.'s athletic program, over the last few months we have heard from neighbors, the Yalecrest Community Council, and the Pingree School of Autism on their concerns about noise and traffic."

U. Athletic Director Chris Hill said Wednesday that with or without the 14,000-square-foot strip along the western boundary of the park, the U. plans to build a stadium at the corner of Guardsman Way (1580 East) and Sunnyside Avenue (800 South) -- where a smaller practice field is sandwiched between the city park and the street.

To build on a smaller footprint, the U. will have to orient its ballpark so that the right-field corner abuts Guardsman Way, putting foul balls in conflict with cars and pedestrians. The west-leaning orientation also limits west-side seating.

"We always want what the ideal is; everybody does," Hill said, "but if the ideal isn't what's appropriate for the city, then we'll make it a great ballpark in its different orientation."

Area residents at a U. forum and in community council meetings had worried that a new stadium would bring additional traffic, as well as noise and light pollution.

Some feared that the loudspeaker announcements would have an adverse effect on students at the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning, located across the street on Guardsman Way.

Others, still smarting from the loss of 13 acres to Rowland Hall more than a decade ago, wrote Biskupski to say that the east bench has the least amount of open space of the city's seven council districts.

Councilman Charlie Luke, who represents District 6, had echoed that objection after meeting with Hill. Luke said in a text message Wednesday that the mayor made the right call not to sell away more open space in Sunnyside Park.

"Giving up any of the city's available acreage doesn't make sense," Luke said. "I want the University of Utah to be successful with their athletic programs, but success should never be at [the] expense of the neighboring communities."

The silver lining for the U.: It can now build without rezoning that land and enduring the associated public process.

The school -- which plays its home games more than 3 miles away at Smith's Ballpark -- is believed to have raised $7.5 million for the project.

The Swingin' Utes were unlikely Pac-12 champions in 2016 and earlier this year finished the season with an overall winning record for the first time since 2011.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper

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July 4, 2017
 
 
 

 

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