Nightengale: Relocating A’s Might Be Better Option Than Expansion Team For Salt Lake City

Apr 18, 2023, 12:33 PM | Updated: Apr 19, 2023, 10:00 am

Oakland Athletics - RingCentral Coliseum...

A general view of play during the game between the Oakland Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks at RingCentral Coliseum on June 09, 2021 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The group Big League Utah made an announcement last week that fired up sports fans in Utah. The group announced a coaltion with the intent of bringing a Major League Baseball team to Salt Lake City.

This group is led by the Larry H. Miller Company and they are moving forward with the process of trying to get another pro sports team in Utah.

Nothing is official but Big League Utah has a site dedicated for a stadium in the Power District, a website with info, stadium renderings, and quite a few people involved and ready to make this happen.

Steve Starks who is the CEO of the Larry H. Miller Company joined KSL Sports Zone to discuss this decision and made it clear that there is excitement about this move but it is far from a done deal.

“A super exciting announcement today and a great turnout for the community,” Starks said. “Honestly, that’s what we think baseball does. Everybody’s excited about the buzz in the air and the potential of making Salt Lake City a baseball market.”

Everyone seemingly is all in on bringing another pro sports franchise to the area. There are talks of an NHL team being a potential option as Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman earlier this month. The Major League Baseball discussion seems more real with a site in place and a plan to have a stadium built if a baseball team comes to town.

How Realistic Is Bringing In An MLB Team?

Bringing a new pro sports franchise to the area is a big undertaking and it doesn’t happen overnight. This is not to shut down the possibility of bringing an MLB team to Utah but there are many things in the way of this happening. Now that the initial buzz of a new pro team is wearing a bit, now is a good time to be more realistic about what might happen.

Major League Baseball has said they want to add two more teams and go from 30 to 32, with one in the Eastern and one in the Western part of the United States. That fits Salt Lake City but there are other areas trying to get a team out West which include Portland and Las Vegas.

The former has been trying for a team for years with its own group called Portland Diamond Project. While Portland has been trying to lure an MLB team to town there are some concerns with one telling change of allegiances is that former MLBer Dale Murphy was once a consultant for the Portland Diamond Project but now is backing Big League Utah. That is a bit of good news for Salt Lake City.

Las Vegas is trying to lure in the Oakland A’s who for years have been battling with the city for a new stadium and lack of fan support. That gridlock in Nevada could help Salt Lake City move up the pecking order in getting an expansion team or having one move here.

The latter is a bit more tricky because the A’s current ownership could still be in charge of the team and just move them to Utah. The Big League Utah group seemingly has the backers for an expansion team and might prefer that route so that the ownership group would be in Utah.

The Salt Lake City market is growing and this group would not make it this far if the area could not handle adding a pro franchise from one of the four major sports leagues in North America. 

Expansion Or Relocation?

There are two teams that have issues that MLB would like to resolve and that would be figuring out what to do with the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Athletics’ attendance this season has been less than some minor league teams. Some of the A’s fans plan to host a reverse boycott on June 13 to show that the fans are not the problem. Having to host an event on a random night to drum up interest is a problem. For years, the A’s have had issues with attendance and not being competitive with one of the smaller payrolls across MLB. As for Tampa Bay, there was an idea to split its home games with Montreal but that was ultimately nixed last year. Neither team is in good shape.

Bob Nightengale is a Major League Baseball columnist from USA TODAY and he put a little bit of cold water on Salt Lake City getting a team in the near future when he joined Unrivaled on KSL Sports Zone.

“I go to all of the owner’s meetings and I have not heard Salt Lake City, I really have not. Not to put a damper on it,” Nightengale said. “I think, realistically, if they are going to get a team it would have to be Oakland relocating there. They keep waiting for someone to step up in Las Vegas to build a stadium. If Las Vegas doesn’t do it, maybe Salt Lake does and they go to Salt Lake instead of Las Vegas.” 

“No. 1 on [MLB’s] wishlist is Nashville and they really want to go there and the second spot is Montreal. Right now if you ask MLB for a wishlist it would be those two cities.”

It seems that Salt Lake City is in a longshot position, according to Nightengale. There is good news as Nightengale mentioned that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he wants to add two clubs to get to 32 teams. Adding an expansion team would be the longer path for Salt Lake City to get a baseball team in town and beyond the 2025 timeline that Big League Utah has in mind.

While Salt Lake City may not be the No. 1 choice of these groups, they are in the running with the Big League Utah announcement and what seems to be a solid plan in place. The quickest option to get a team would be via relocation and the A’s make a lot of sense. If the end result is adding a team through expansion then the timeline gets pushed out a few years and closer to the end of this decade as MLB needs to get its ducks in a row with the A’s and Rays and then decide on what Eastern and Western cities would claim franchises 31 and 32 for Major League Baseball.

Tune into Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 3-6 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM, or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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Nightengale: Relocating A’s Might Be Better Option Than Expansion Team For Salt Lake City