Salt Lake’s location might give it an edge in MLB expansion

Salt Lake City’s location could give it a distinct advantage in its bid for a Major League Baseball team — but it’s not about our pretty mountain vistas.

  • The city is far enough from other franchises to keep fans focused on just one hometown team and avoid clashes with other markets.

Why it matters: Salt Lake is entering a crowded competition of cities trying to secure a team, with Charlotte, Las Vegas, Montreal, Nashville and Portland in the running.

  • MLB likely wants to avoid territorial challenges like the ongoing tension between the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, said J.C. Bradbury, a sports economist at Kennesaw State in Georgia.

Catch up quick: MLB leadership in recent years has signaled a probable expansion that would add two teams after the Oakland Athletics’ relocate and the Tampa Bay Rays decide whether to stay or move.

  • MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said expanding could allow the American and National leagues to realign geographically, creating an expectation for one new team in the West and another in the East.
  • With Wednesday’s news of the As buying land in Las Vegas, Portland would be Salt Lake’s main competition in the West.

By the numbers: Vegas would be Salt Lake’s nearest MLB franchise at 420 miles. Denver is more than 500 miles away.

  • Portland is 175 miles from Seattle.

Between the lines: Utah also “has its own cultural identity, certainly distinct from Las Vegas,” Bradbury told Axios. “That might help it out. … It’s really sort of a more untapped market.”

  • By contrast, Portland shares Seattle’s Pacific Northwest identity, while Charlotte and Nashville could compete with Atlanta for southern fans’ loyalty.
  • SLC “seems to be one that’s not going to be offending [other] owners all that much,” Bradbury said.

The latest: this week ranked Salt Lake City No. 3 on its list of possible MLB expansion cities, behind Nashville and Charlotte, with a 22% chance of claiming a team.

  • “In terms of stadium plans, I think it’s the best one — or, at worst, rivals the other ones,” Bookies analyst Adam Thompson told “[Salt Lake City] really put their best foot forward with this plan.”

Yes, but: If the As don’t move to Las Vegas as expected, MLB will probably want to expand there instead of Salt Lake, Thompson said.

Get smart: While Salt Lake City population estimates rank it below existing MLB markets, neither the city itself (200,000) nor the federally defined “metropolitan statistical area” (1.26 million) paints a complete picture.

  • The population along the Wasatch Front is around 2.7 million people, nearly all of whom live within an hour of the proposed stadium site on North Temple.
  • That makes it larger than existing pro baseball markets in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake’s media market is bigger than those in Cincinnati, Kansas City, Milwaukee and San Diego, and comparable to Baltimore, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

Read the article by Emily Alberty at

Scroll to Top