SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A fundraising drive is underway at the University of Utah to build a new on-campus baseball stadium amid uncertainty for the program’s future with Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City.

The proposed stadium would be built on Guardsman Way, where the current Utah Baseball practice field is, and could open as early as 2025, the same year the Salt Lake Bees will vacate Smith’s Ballpark.

The University Baseball team has shared Smith’s Ballpark in downtown with the Salt Lake Bees as its primary home since 1996. When the Bees announced it would leave Smith’s Ballpark and move to Daybreak, the future of the downtown ballpark was thrown into question. Salt Lake City officials began fielding suggestions from the community on what to do with the 13-acre lot where the ballpark currently sits. Submissions for the City’s Ballpark Next program closed on March 17.

“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,” said University of Utah’s Director of Athletics Mark Harlan. “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.”

The University’s new proposed ballpark calls for a capacity of 1,200 fans and will include concessions, restrooms, ticketing offices, and team facilities such as locker rooms, team spaces, and coach’s offices. The new ballpark is expected to cost $35 million, with the majority of the funding being privately raised. Harlan said the project already has had incredible engagement from donors and officials are already working toward reaching fundraising goals.

The process of fundraising for the new stadium came after the University’s Board of Trustees granted contingency approval for the project. The University said it has been evaluating potential sites for a new ballpark on campus for nearly a decade. Originally, eight sites were being evaluated, but a study in 2019 narrowed potential locations to five, including two locations on Guardsman Way.

Harlan said building the new stadium at the location of the current practice field provides the most beneficial site for the program and the 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 game days,” said Harlan.

The U’s Chief Facilities Officer Robin Burr said the proposed location keeps in line with keeping sporting venues along central campus and Guardsman Way.

“Noise, light, safety and traffic have been the consistent concerns raised, and our design addresses each of these factors,” Burr said when addressing community feedback. “This new design is also scaled back from proposals and fits nicely on the space we have designated.”

Other factors when evaluating the proposal for the new ballpark included compatibility with the campus master plan, site buildability, availability of nearby parking and public transit, access to other Utah Athletics facilities and visibility.