Current State Of MLB Relocation/Expansion Talks

Apr 14, 2023, 9:19 AM | Updated: Apr 17, 2023, 10:47 am

SALT LAKE CITY  – With news that officials in Utah are pushing for an MLB expansion team, the immediate focus shifted to when and where?

Big League Utah, a coalition led by Steve Starks, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Company, recently announced their intent to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Salt Lake City.

The announcement was made on a rundown, 100-acre plot of land on Salt Lake City’s west side currently owned by Rocky Mountain Power. The where was answered when renderings showed an MLB-caliber ballpark nestled around a new RMP headquarters and community development in an area being called the ‘Power District’.

Officials recently traveled to Georgia where the Atlanta Braves have built a similar development. The Battery Atlanta will be used as a model for the Power District vision.

The event showed Salt Lake City’s expectation to be seriously considered for future expansion. With a shovel-ready site in hand, Big League Utah is waiting for the green light from MLB.

“I think the biggest message to MLB and across the country is, Salt Lake is major league ready. We have a great site and a community that supports us,” Starks said.

Owner of the LHM Company, Gail Miller, reminded fans that nothing is set in stone, though the group is confident.

That begs the question, when could the dream of Major League Baseball in Salt Lake be realized?

RELATED: Photos: Renderings of MLB Ballpark In SLC Released

Finding Homes For A’s, Rays

Before commissioner Rob Manfred takes a look at MLB expansion, nailing down long-term playing facilities for the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics is the priority.

In an interview with Sports Business Journal last October Manfred made his priorities clear. “There’s demand for (expansion),” Manfred said, “but we need to get Oakland and Tampa Bay resolved first.”

Since its 1998 inception, Tampa Bay has played its home games at an underwhelming Tropicana Field. Since joining the league, sub-par facilities and consistently low attendance have plagued the Rays.

Just days before spring training, an ESPN story reported an outline for a redevelopment project that would include a new ballpark for the Rays to be built near Tropicana Field. There is currently no agreement in place for the development.

For the Athletics, a move out of Oakland seems all but assured after years of battling with local government officials seeking funding for a new stadium in the Bay Area. Seemingly every time the two sides get close to an agreement, something derails the plans.

With taxpayer funding for a new stadium a consistent sticking point, Athletics ownership and MLB officials have frequently cited Las Vegas as an option if the franchise decides to relocate.

With the ever-shifting nature of both conversations, it is unlikely expansion would happen within the next five years.

Salt Lake Has Competition For New Franchise

Expansion has been less common in MLB than it has for other pro leagues in recent decades.

MLB has not expanded since the 1998 season when Tampa Bay and the Arizona Diamondbacks joined the league. MLB has gone the longest of the four major professional leagues in the U.S. since expanding.

No team has relocated since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington D.C. and rebranded as the Nationals in 2005. The NFL, NBA, and NHL have all relocated franchises during that time.

RELATED: MLB To SLC: LHM Group Announces Attempt To Bring Major League Baseball Team To Utah

Salt Lake’s Big League Utah coalition join groups from Nashville, Tennessee called Music City Baseball and Portland, Oregon’s Diamond Project in lobbying MLB officials to join the other 30 teams.

Manfred has publicly stated that, once expansion is on the table, the ideal scenario would be to add a team in the eastern U.S. and a team in the western U.S.

After the first meeting with MLB officials a year ago, Starks and his group believe Salt Lake has as good of a chance as any other city in the running.

“If you think about the potential of Major League Baseball adding a team to the east and a team to the west and you look at the map and compare us to other markets, we stack up very favorably,” Starks said.

To put it in baseball terms, Salt Lake and Big League Utah may have a first-inning lead, but it’s a nine-inning ballgame and a lot can happen.

In the immortal words of Parks & Recreation’s Shauna Malwae-Tweep, “We’ll see.”

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Current State Of MLB Relocation/Expansion Talks