How does Salt Lake City stack up to Major League Baseball expansion competition?

Apr 17, 2023, 6:03 AM | Updated: 11:38 am

There's been a flurry of conversation in recent weeks about Major League Baseball coming to Utah an...

FILE: Renderings released Wednesday depict what a new Major League Baseball stadium could look like in the Power District located on North Temple in Salt Lake City, according to Big League Utah, a group described as a broad community coalition. (Big League Utah)

(Big League Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gail Miller and a coalition of prominent business leaders, politicians and other famous residents made waves in the sports world this week when they announced they are pursuing a Major League Baseball expansion team, placing them at a “shovel-ready” site at Salt Lake City’s new Power District.

Miller and other members of the Big League Utah coalition confirmed they met with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred about it last year and they left optimistic about their odds.

“Based on those conversations, we have reason to believe we are a very viable candidate city and candidate market,” said Larry H. Miller Company CEO Steve Starks.

Manfred has made it clear that he would like the league to expand to 32 teams sometime in the not-so-distant future.

The league last expanded in 1998, and it’s still unclear when it might expand again, but Salt Lake City certainly isn’t alone in the pursuit of a major league team. Similar coalitions have emerged in Nashville, Tennessee, and Portland, Oregon, in recent years, while some other cities appear to be possible relocation sites for existing teams.

Here’s a look at how Salt Lake City compares to the field so far.

The possible candidates

For this review, looked at Census Bureau and Nielsen Company data to compare the populations and media market sizes — a statistic similar to a metro area — of the cities that are either bidding for an expansion team or are considered favorites for relocation from multiple media reports.

For instance, Las Vegas has long been considered as the most likely landing spot for the Oakland Athletics, while there are a few options for the Tampa Bay Rays, including north of the border. That’s because the franchise recently proposed to play half of its home games in Montreal, Canada, but the idea was rejected.

MLB will also launch its first-ever Mexico City Series later this month, and some have suggested the league could consider that option because it is the largest city in North America. reviewed similar data from Canada and Mexico to compare those markets.

Charlotte, North Carolina

  • City population (2021 estimate): 879,709
  • Media market size: 1.32 million (21st)

Las Vegas

  • City population: 646,790
  • Media market size: 790,580 (40th)

Mexico City

  • City population: 9.21 million
  • Media market size: 19.8 million (1st in Mexico)


  • City population: 1.78 million
  • Media market size: 4.2 million (2nd in Canada)

Nashville, Tennessee

  • City population (2021 estimate): 678,851
  • Media market size: 1.17 million (27th)

Portland, Oregon

  • City population (2021 estimate): 641,162
  • Media market size: 1.3 million (22nd)

Salt Lake City

  • City population (2021 estimate): 200,478
  • Media market size: 1.15 million (29th)

Mexico City would obviously tower over any market Major League Baseball currently has, although it would be somewhat experimental because it doesn’t have any major U.S. sports franchises at the moment.

At face value, Salt Lake City lags behind the other candidates in population. That said, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox points out that Salt Lake City’s population doesn’t account for the rest of the county and some of the neighboring cities quite like others on the list do.

If the entire Wasatch Front is considered, there are more than 2.52 million people living in Salt Lake, Davis, Utah and Weber counties combined. That figure doesn’t even account for the “ring counties” surrounding the Wasatch Front, which also have easy access to Salt Lake City.

“That puts us above several current Major League Baseball franchises right now,” Cox said.

Las Vegas, though comparable with Nashville and Portland in population, is also last in the media market among the options. Yet it also brings in a large number of tourists. The city brought in 38.8 million tourists last year, according to KTNV. That’s over an additional 100,000 people in the city per day, on average.

It’s also interesting that Charlotte, Nashville, Portland and Salt Lake City all have larger TV markets than San Diego, Kansas City, Cincinnati or Milwaukee, which already have Major League Baseball teams. Salt Lake City’s market isn’t far off from Pittsburgh, Baltimore and St. Louis among existing MLB cities, too.

Of course, the media market size doesn’t mean everything. The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota TV market is 13th in size at 2.07 million but it could lose a team if the Rays move, making it the only Top 15 market without an MLB team should it happen.

Other factors to consider

Meanwhile, Cox adds that Utah’s growth over the past few decades has come with economic success, as he continues to pitch the Beehive State to Major League Baseball. He made those remarks during an event to highlight the state having the top economic outlook on the “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index” report for the 16th straight year,

The report places North Carolina at No. 2 behind Utah in the economic outlook, while Nevada placed 10th, Tennessee placed 11th and Oregon placed 43rd among the states reportedly vying for an MLB franchise.

“When you look at the economic piece of this, which you overlay on top (our growth), we have had the single-best economy over the past decade by just about any measure,” he said. “When you’re looking at potential cities out there, that places us in kind of the upper echelon and that’s what we’ve heard from (Manfred) and we’ve heard from others, so we feel confident about the potential for a major league franchise to move here.”

This could be a big component of the equation. Baseball reporter Maury Brown, writing for Forbes, points out that having a former NBA team owner like Miller leading the way with a joint coalition that includes several prominent financial figures helps make an underdog like Salt Lake City a “serious player,” especially because it could raise the money needed for expansion fees and a stadium.

And with a potentially crowded field, David Berri, a professor of economics at Southern Utah University, told that cities may have to offer some form of subsidy or tax package to catapult over others in the running.

All of these appear to be the types of things that Major League Baseball will consider as it ponders further expansion in the future.

Decision timeline

However, it’s unclear when any expansion will happen. ESPN reported Wednesday that the league wants to figure out the future of the Athletics and Rays before adding any new teams.

So it could be a while before any of these cities know if they are on deck to bat. Two of them may end up with either the A’s or Rays, while it’s possible other cities will join the list seeking an expansion team, too.


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories


Bringing the Olympic Games back to Utah...

Devin Oldroyd

Completed host questionnaire brings Utah closer to hosting another Olympics

This questionnaire is a requirement from the International Olympic Committee. So, what kind of questions does it ask?

6 days ago

a byu basketball game is pictured, byutv is changing due to an espn deal...

Allessandra Harris

The streaming shift from BYUtv to ESPN

BYU is moving to the Big 12 Conference this year, bringing a new partnership between ESPN and BYUtv.

7 days ago

national ban on transgender...

Adam Small

Would a national ban on transgender involvement in sports affect Utah’s ban?

Could a national ban on transgender athletes competing in women's sports affect Utah's ban? One expert says it could make minor impacts.

1 month ago

There's been a flurry of conversation in recent weeks about Major League Baseball coming to Utah an...

Mark Jones

WATCH: The feasibility of bringing Major League Baseball to SLC

A Utah marketing expert says factors to consider include Salt Lake's growth but also competition from other cities.

1 month ago

New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer throws during the third inning of a spring training bas...

Mark Jones

Matheson reflects on lessons of Major League Baseball opening day

Boyd Matheson, of Inside Sources, talks about the lessons to be found in baseball.

2 months ago

a man plays golf -- a study looked at weekday golfing...

Elizabeth Weiler

Weekday golfing has gone up thanks to remote working, study finds

If employees' productivity does not change, should employers care if they are golfing during the work day? 

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Group of cheerful team members high fiving each other...

Visit Bear Lake

How To Plan a Business Retreat in Bear Lake This Spring

Are you wondering how to plan a business retreat this spring? Read our sample itinerary to plan a team getaway to Bear Lake.

Cheerful young woman writing an assignment while sitting at desk between two classmates during clas...

BYU EMBA at the Marriott School of Business

Hear it Firsthand: 6 Students Share Their Executive MBA Experience at BYU’s Marriott School of Business

The Executive MBA program at BYU offers great opportunities. Hear experiences straight from students enrolled in the program.

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and gates.

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...

Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer.

Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy.

How does Salt Lake City stack up to Major League Baseball expansion competition?