A Major League Baseball team in Salt Lake City could prove to be a grand slam for Park City’s tourism industry.
With discussions underway in the Salt Lake Valley about the prospects of the league expanding with a team in Utah or a team relocating to the state, there is early speculation about the potential impact on the Park City area, particularly any economic benefits the community could draw from a team.
Park City and surrounding Summit County typically receive at least some residual economic activity from many sporting events in the Salt Lake Valley and wider Wasatch Front. Precise Park City-area visitation and sales numbers attributed to people in the state for the events are not known, but fans of visiting teams are sometimes seen wearing their squad’s logos on Main Street and elsewhere in the community. The fans on days around football games of the University of Utah or Brigham Young University can be especially noticeable.
A Major League Baseball team could attract people to Park City in a similar fashion. Park City is a popular day trip from Salt Lake City, and someone traveling to the capital city for a baseball game could easily spend a morning and afternoon locally before heading to a game in the evening.
“Sports tourism positively impacts Park City, as fans attending games in Salt Lake City and Provo often include pre- and post-game visits to Main Street and it is not uncommon for fans to book overnight rooms at area hotels and VRBOs,” Jennifer Wesselhoff, the president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said in a prepared response to a Park Record inquiry about the Major League Baseball discussions. “College football fans are particularly visible on Saturdays in the fall as they often sport the jerseys of visiting college teams, while alumni of local universities who live out of town also enjoy including Park City on itineraries when returning for home games.”
The Major League Baseball season extends through 162 regular-season games — 81 at home — starting in late March and running until early October. The playoffs can stretch into November and add an undetermined number of home games to a team’s season. The schedule would appear to be favorable to the tourism industry in Park City since April and May are traditionally the slowest months of the year, as the ski season ends and the summertime activities and warm-weather events have yet to begin. Any tourism generated by a baseball team in April or May in the Park City area could be seen as a post-ski season prize during a time when there is usually limited economic activity. The same could apply to September and October, as the community waits for the opening of ski season, although those months have proven to be economically solid in recent years.
“If Salt Lake were to land an expansion MLB team, there is no question Park City would pick up additional leisure day and overnight visitors from visiting fan bases arriving over the course of 81 home games each year. We would especially benefit from the spring and fall games taking place during our ‘shoulder’ seasons,” Wesselhoff said.
A group called Big League Utah is pursuing a team with the vision of building a stadium on the west side of Salt Lake City, on land roughly between downtown and Salt Lake City International Airport. Big League Utah touts the rapid growth of Utah, a strong economy and the state’s sports legacy. It acknowledges the efforts could take years, though.
Big League Utah involves dozens of elected officials, businesspeople and figures from the sports and entertainment fields. Few of them have direct ties to the Park City area, but numerous members of Big League Utah have some sort of role in the community, such as the congressional delegation. There are no elected officials from the Park City or Summit County governments listed as being a member of the group.
In a prepared response to a Park Record inquiry about the potential economic impact of a team, Ty Burrell, who is a member of Big League Utah and a co-owner of The Eating Establishment on Main Street with additional business interests in the Salt Lake Valley, predicted there would be benefits in the Park City area.
“Firstly, I hope the impact on Park City tourism will be significant during the shoulder seasons. One of the remarkable aspects of the (Big League Utah) proposal is a shovel ready site at the Power District, near the airport. It’s an incredibly convenient location for visiting teams and, more importantly, visiting fans. For those folks wanting to combine a trip to see their team and also to get up into the mountains, it’s pretty unique. Actually, I would go so far as to say it’s completely unique in its accessibility (I’m looking at you Denver). With regard to our businesses, I would hope to see some impact in Park City and all over the Wasatch Front,” he said.
Read the article by Jay Hamburger in The Park Record