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Utah group ‘plans to pursue’ MLB expansion in Salt Lake City

Major League Baseball commission Rob Manfred said that MLB expansion won’t be on the table until the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays resolve their stadium situations. With the A’s headed to Las Vegas and the Rays making progress locally, the possibility of MLB expansion is increasing.

MLB wants to expand in the years to come. While the ability to expand baseball’s reach is important, the financial incentive for adding more clubs is the biggest driving force. Manfred said in 2021 that the MLB expansion fee is $2.2 billion, at a minimum, based on average valuations from Sportico. Given the looming Washington Nationals’ sale will likely be for $2-plus billion, the projected expansion fee seems reasonable.

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“If in fact these assets are worth an average $2.2 billion, I think that’s kind of a lodestar in terms of where you would start in terms of evaluating expansion opportunity.”

Commission Rob Manfred on the MLB expansion fee

While Nashville, Tennessee has been eyeing an expansion MLB franchise for years, there could soon be added competition. In addition to Portland, Oregon, a new group in Utah is reportedly pushing to bring an MLB team to Salt Lake City.

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According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, a group led by former Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller has formed an organization called Big League Utah. The coalition also includes the Larry H. Miller Company, per Passan, which Gail Miller owns following the death of her husband Larry in 2009.

Miller’s group will make its case for Salt Lake City based on a variety of factors, including the region’s rapid population growth and its strong economy. According to Census.gov, Salt Lake City’s. average median household income in 2021 was $65,880. The group is looking at the Rocky Mountain Power District as the target site for a new stadium.

“It would be, I think, a validation of everything that we’ve worked so hard to do. We’ve proven ourselves in a sports capacity with Olympics in 2002 and coming back in 2030 or, more likely, 2034. We’ve hosted two NBA All-Star Games. We know we can do this. It would just be meaningful for people who love this sport, who care deeply about it. We’re a baseball state.”

Utah Governor Spencer Cox to ESPN on why the region is a good fit for an MLB team

Big League Utah would face significant competition from Music City Baseball (Nashville) and the Portland Diamond Project for MLB expansion clubs. Multiple other cities might also try and get involved, with the league expected to be open to expanding with two new teams.

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As previously mentioned, MLB isn’t expected to pursue expansion until after the A’s finalize their decision and the Rays either relocate or reach a new stadium deal with the city. After that, expansion will become MLB’s next big objective, with the goal to have 32 teams in the future.