Salt Lake City is considering a proposal to lease a portion (1.175 acres) of Sunnyside Park to the University of Utah. The University is building a new game-size baseball stadium for its baseball team in place of its current practice field near the corner of Guardsman Way and Sunnyside Avenue.
The Council will consider a public benefits analysis allowing the Mayor and her Administration to lease a portion of Sunnyside Park to the University of Utah at a discounted rate. In exchange, the University of Utah will invest in enhanced amenities in Sunnyside Park. The University wants to lease a portion of the park so they can build the stadium without a 35-foot wall at the eastern perimeter of the outfield.
Public Benefits Analysis
The public benefits analysis shows the amenities and other benefits the City and its residents receive in exchange for the discounted rate.
Impacts of the lease
Under the proposed lease between Salt Lake City and the University, the City would maintain ownership of the leased area. The University would pay the City $1.00 per year for 99 years. The lease would include the loss of 1.175 acres of Sunnyside Park, and result in the loss of one existing softball field and one existing multi-use/lacrosse field.
What does SLC get in return?
In exchange for the lease, the University has offered to commit $4.2 million to replace the fields and improve and enhance the amenities at Sunnyside Park. This amount could be in addition to funding Sunnyside Park will receive from the 2022 Parks, Trails & Open Space Bond. The type of park amenities will be determined through a separate process and will include community engagement and input.
Some examples of amenities could include pickleball courts, multi-use sports fields, walking paths, or additional park parking.
The City has also requested that the University allow the City to use the baseball field and stadium when not in use by the University, as well as maintaining public access to restrooms and concessions.
The City Council is considering approving or denying the public benefits analysis for the discounted lease of part of Sunnyside Park. The Mayor can lease City-owned property without Council approval at “fair market value.” However, if the lease of the property is at a discount, a public benefits analysis must be prepared, which the Council can either approve or deny.
If the Council approves the public benefits analysis, the City may move forward with leasing the property to the University of Utah at a discounted rate. The lease of the property will allow the University to build the stadium without a 35-foot wall in its left field. If the Council denies the public benefits analysis and the lease is not authorized, the University must build a 35-foot wall at the stadium’s perimeter to prevent baseballs from landing in Sunnyside Park.
Balancing the reality of the University building a new stadium and preserving the total space of Sunnyside Park is at the heart of the decision before the Council.
More information about the proposed stadium
The decision to construct a new stadium follows a nearly decade-long process by the University to identify the most suitable location for the new stadium. The University of Utah’s baseball team currently plays games at Smith’s Ballpark. However, the relocation of the Salt Lake City Bees to South Jordan has created a need for the University to have its own stadium.
In its proposed location, the baseball team will be close to other shared athletics’ training and education facilities. The new stadium would also meet NCAA requirements for a competition field.
February 20, 2024 Public Hearing
The Council held and closed a public hearing during its formal meeting where it heard from several residents sharing input on the potential lease of the park and the proposed public benefits analysis. The Council also voted to defer its vote to a future meeting date.
February 6, 2024 Briefing
The Council discussed a proposal to authorize a 99-year below-market ground lease of property near Sunnyside Park to the University of Utah. The lease would allow for an expansion of the University’s baseball field and the construction of the stadium without a tall outfield wall.
If the expansion results in the removal of two Sunnyside Park fields (one softball and one multi-purpose), the university will commit $4.2 million for improvements and new amenities at the park in exchange for the lease.
A public hearing on this proposal is scheduled for Feb. 20, and additional engagement on Sunnyside Park amenities is planned. The Council will hold a public hearing at its formal meeting on Tuesday, February 20, at 7 p.m., and additional engagement on Sunnyside Park amenities is planned. The Council will also consider voting on the public benefits analysis following the public hearing on the same date.
During its Feb. 20 meeting, the Council held and closed a public hearing. It also voted to defer its vote to a future meeting (date to be announced).
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Share your thoughts
Comments may be shared anytime online, by phone at 801-535-7654, or by email at Council.Comments@slcgov.com.
A public hearing will be held Tuesday, Feb. 20 before the Council votes on the public benefits analysis. The hearing provides an opportunity for the public to give their input on the public benefits analysis directly to the Council during a public meeting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why would the lease of the portion of Sunnyside Park be discounted to the University of Utah for only $1.00 per year?
Under Utah state law, a city may lease property to nonprofit entities, such as public universities, at a below-market or discounted rate. The public benefits analysis evaluates the potential impacts and benefits to the public of leasing a part of the park property to the University at a discounted rate.
Can the City Council prevent the University from building its new stadium?
The Council has no authority to prevent the University of Utah from building the stadium since the University owns the land that the stadium will be built on (minus the portion of Sunnyside Park it wishes to lease). Instead, its authority rests on approving or denying the public benefits analysis of leasing a portion of the City-owned Sunnyside Park and ways to mitigate any potential negative impacts on the neighborhood.
What are the impacts of a 35-foot wall?
According to the City’s Administration, the 35-foot wall would negatively impact Sunnyside Park by obstructing lines of sight. Open lines of sight provide natural surveillance and improve park safety. Additionally, the Administration argues the University’s commitment to enhancing Sunnyside Park increases its usefulness and would positively affect the community.
The University of Utah created a website for its baseball stadium project. It includes more information about the proposed stadium and several answers to several frequently asked questions, including how the University intends to address neighborhood concerns. Learn more at ballpark.utah.edu.