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Salt Lake City consortium enters MLB franchise expansion race

Group talks up Utah's population growth, robust economy and baseball history.

13 April 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Consortium headed by former Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller
  • Group wants to build stadium in Rocky Mountain Power District
  • Expansion fee expected to be US$2bn

Gail Miller, the former owner of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Utah Jazz, is leading a group exploring a Major League Baseball (MLB) expansion franchise slot in Salt Lake City.

The coalition includes the Larry H Miller Company, the conglomerate founded by Miller’s late husband, as well as local business leaders and former MLB players Dale Murphy and Jeremy Guthrie.

The group has targeted building a stadium in the Rocky Mountain Power District, a 100-acre mixed-use site located on Salt Lake City’s west side. That investment would come on top of an expansion fee that has been pegged at US$2 billion.

“Salt Lake City is a major league city,” Steve Starks, chief executive of the Larry H Miller Company, told ESPN.

“We believe that as a top-30 media market in the fastest-growing state in the country with the youngest population, that’s where our attention should be – and that we could accomplish bringing a team to the Wasatch Front.”

Sarks added that the group had surveyed local fans about their favorite sports leagues for potential expansion, with MLB named the top choice.

“It would be, I think, a validation of everything that we’ve worked so hard to do,” Utah governor Spencer Cox told ESPN.

“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.”

The Larry H Miller Company already owns Minor League Baseball’s (MiLB) Salt Lake Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, and is building a new stadium for the team set to open in 2025.

SportsPro says…

Miller (pictured above) and her Salt Lake City group have set their stall out for landing an MLB franchise. According to ESPN, the consortium has highlighted a media market it says is larger than that of four current league teams in San Diego, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. It also stressed Utah’s significant growth, citing its population of about 3.3 million that jumped by a higher percentage than any US state from 2010 to 2020.

As for the proposed franchise’s home, the group is believed to have taken inspiration from the Battery, the mixed-use zone that surrounds the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park stadium, and wants to build a similar development.

Miller and her partners look set to face plenty of competition. Nashville, Portland, Charlotte and Montreal are among the other potential candidates, as is Las Vegas should the Oakland Athletics not relocate to the city.

The consensus is MLB does not plan to expand beyond 30 clubs until it sorts out the futures of the A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays, which are also considering a move. More franchises, though, will arrive at some point – the league’s commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN last June he would “love to get to 32 teams”.

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