SALT LAKE CITY — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday that the league is looking to form an expansion committee “pretty shortly” after the future stadiums for the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays are secured, according to multiple reports.
That’s when Utah’s proposal for an expansion team in Salt Lake City will be considered.
Manfred spoke about league expansion during a meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America ahead of the MLB All-Star Game in Seattle. The commissioner reportedly reiterated that the league is focused on the A’s and Rays first.
The A’s are close to relocating to Las Vegas. The Nevada legislature approved a $380 million financing package last month that will help the team build a $1.5 billion stadium on the Las Vegas Strip, which was viewed by experts as the biggest obstacle left for the team to clear.
MLB established a relocation committee to evaluate the move, the Associated Press reports, and they will review the plan before MLB owners vote on whether to support the move. At least 23 of the 30 owners have to approve it before it’s made official.
It’s possible the Rays will stick around the Tampa area. St. Petersburg, Florida, officials unveiled a massive redevelopment plan in January that calls for a new stadium in the area the team already plays, the AP reported at the time. The team could start playing at the new ballpark as early as 2028 should the team stay in place.
The team has yet to commit to the plan. Manfred said Tuesday those conversations are still ongoing, the outlet wrote.
Once all of that is figured out, which could be over the course of the next few months, the league will turn to the idea of expansion.
“We would put together an expansion committee and start talking about issues associated with expansion,” Manfred said, according to Front Office Sports, noting that it will begin “pretty shortly” after the A’s and Rays stadium plans are finalized.
One of the issues the committee will consider is the impact expansion has on the 30 existing teams, Forbes reports. The commissioner explained that the committee would look into “diminishing the central revenue” tied to the idea. This could be mitigated with a possible $2 billion entry fee for the new clubs or possible tweaks to revenue sharing, according to the outlet.
The plan could result in division realignment, too. The league’s last realignment came in 2013, which is when the Houston Astros moved over from the National League Central division to the American League West division. The move balanced out the two leagues and ensured there were five teams in every MLB division.
Still, it’s unclear when a decision could be made on expansion and what two cities will be awarded teams.
The update comes about three months after Larry H. Miller Company owner Gail Miller announced the formation of Big League Utah, a group of prominent Utahns all backing a plan for an MLB team. The coalition’s preferred site is in an area that Rocky Mountain Power is redeveloping into the new Power District within Salt Lake City’s west side.
Nashville, Tennessee; Portland, Oregon; and Orlando are among cities with similar bids for MLB to consider. Charlotte, North Carolina; Montreal, Canada; and San Antonio, Texas, are among cities that have been listed by experts as possible expansion cities.
It’s clear Big League Utah’s work is still in progress as it vies for a franchise. The coalition on Wednesday emailed invitations to people for four focus group sessions that will be held next week, using a Salt Lake Bees account.
The point of the focus group is to “gather thoughts and opinions regarding a potential MLB expansion team in greater Salt Lake City and the construction of a new ballpark,” according to the email.
“(MLB) has recently been giving public consideration to expansion into new markets, providing opportunities for fans throughout North America to further engage with baseball and enhance the league’s competitiveness,” the email read, in part. “Currently, we are partnered with a third-party firm to conduct market due diligence related to the viability of MLB in greater Salt Lake City and the construction of a new ballpark.”
Check out the KSL article by Carter Williams here.