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It has been over 20 years since baseball last added new teams, the longest period without expansion since baseball began expanding back in 1961. Last year, Commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned the possibilty of expanding, saying that it would lead to division and playoff re-alignment.
“Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada,” Manfred said. “We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.”
Let’s briefly take a look at those first five candidates.
Metro population 2.478 million, 25th-largest U.S. market
If you look at Combined Statistical Areas, which includes smaller cities near the Portland metro area, Portland has 3.2 million people, ranking 19th in the U.S. on par with cities like St. Louis and Denver. The city already has two major pro sports teams with the NBA’s Trail Blazers and the MLS’s Timbers. There is a local civic group trying to bring a team to the area with over $1 billion in financial commitments and initial plans to build a mostly privately-funded baseball stadium.
The area is also the home of Nike, which could be a huge corporate sponsor for the team. However, the city was a poor supporter of minor league baseball, and their AAA club left in 2010, with a rookie-league team relocating to the suburbs with a 4,500-seat stadium in 2013. A new team would also face opposition from the Seattle Mariners, who currently hold the territorial rights to the area.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Metro population 2.231 million, 28th-largest. U.S. market
Baseball has been apprehensive about Las Vegas for years, due to concerns over gambling. But with sports gambling becoming more widespread, and with the NHL (Golden Knights) and NFL (Raiders) putting teams in Vegas, those concerns seem antiquated now. Las Vegas has been one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country with many casinos willing to give corporate support for a potential baseball team.
Much of the population is new to the area, which, coupled with the influx of tourists, could cause concerns that games will be populated by fans of the opposing team. However, the success of the Golden Knights should quell some of those concerns. Entrepreneur Lou Weisbach is the driving force behind bringing a team to Vegas with plans for a privately-funded stadium. Although the Vegas market is growing, there is little population outside the metro area, which could limit how much the team could get from a regional sports network.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Metro population 2.569 million, 23rd-largest U.S. market
Charlotte is also one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States with a wealth of potential corporate sponsors with six Fortune 500 companies including Bank of America, Lowe’s, and Sonic Automotive. The Triple-A Charlotte Knights are one of the best-draws in minor league baseball and a potential team could draw from a number of smaller North Carolina cities in the region. The Braves may object to a new team in their territory, but there seems to be a lot of markets in the South that have been untapped by MLB.
However there have been some analysis that the Charlotte market is currently oversaturated with the NFL’s Panthers, NBA’s Hornets, the NHL’s Hurricanes playing in Raleigh, as well as high interest in NASCAR and college athletics. There is currently no organized group attempting to bring a MLB team to Charlotte, although there is a group that wants to bring a team to Raleigh, which is over two hours away.
Metro population 1.930 million, 36th-largest U.S. market
Nashville opened some eyes when its Predators reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017 and the city went absolutely bonkers. The city has become a hot market for both cultural reasons and it has attracted the tech industry as well. It is also one of the fastest-growing markets, although it is just a bit larger than Milwaukee, the smallest market in baseball.
The Triple-A Nashville Sounds are also one of the best draws in minor league baseball and the city has good corporate support with Nissan America, HCA, and Tractor Supply. A group led by businessman John Loar has discussed the idea of bringing MLB to Nashville, and have proposed a few ballpark sites, but plans have not materialized.
Metro population 4.098 million, would be 15th-largest market in U.S.
Montreal had Major League Baseball for over three decades, as the home of the Expos. The team played in an outdated indoor stadium and threats of relocation and the work stoppage in 1994 as the team was marching towards a pennant significantly hurt their chances of drawing crowds, eventually leading to their relocation to Washington, D.C. If a new team could energize the city, it could tap into a market that is easily larger than any potential U.S. market, and would be on par with the Seattle and Minnesota. Baseball just gave the Rays the okay to explore possibly playing games there.
Stephen Bronfman, whose dad once owned the Expos, leads a group of investors looking to bring a team back to Montreal. Bronfman has already reached a deal to develop a plot of land for a potential stadium although there are not specifics on a potential price tag or who would pay for it. The question is whether Montreal fans will return with the city having been without baseball for nearly two decades now.
We asked our FanPulse respondents which city should be first on MLB’s list of expansion candidates, and they gave the edge to Montreal, but it wasn’t a landslide. The former home of the Expos received 31 percent of the vote, while Nashville received 20 percent of the vote. Both Las Vegas and Portland received 19 percent of the vote, while Charlotte received just 12 percent of the vote.
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What city should be first on the expansion list?
This poll is closed
Some other city