MLB to Utah? Plans unveiled to build ‘shovel-ready’ ballpark at SLC site

Apr 12, 2023, 12:49 PM | Updated: 3:10 pm

A rendering of a planned MLB stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Big League Utah)...

A rendering of a planned MLB stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Big League Utah)

(Big League Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY — Could a Major League Baseball franchise be on its way to the Beehive State?

The Miller family and the Larry H. Miller Company unveiled plans to turn the 100-acre Rocky Mountain Power District on Salt Lake City’s west side into a stadium district, with plans to bring another pro franchise to Utah.

“We believe in the power of sports to elevate and unify communities,” Gail Miller, co-founder and owner of the Larry H. Miller Company, said in a press statement. “Larry and I risked everything to acquire the Utah Jazz, and it was a tremendous honor to ensure it thrived as a model franchise. We now have an opportunity to welcome Major League Baseball to Utah and invite all Utahns to join us in this effort.”

The coalition, named Big League Utah, includes Utah’s federal, state and local decision-makers, business and community leaders, former MLB baseball players and potential investors.

“Over the past year, we have enjoyed our ongoing conversation with Major League Baseball and have formally registered our interest in Salt Lake being considered an expansion market,” Steve Starks, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Company, said in a statement. “We have strong reasons to believe we will be a viable candidate. The response has been universally enthusiastic as we have invited others to join the coalition. Anytime you’re in the running to add a professional baseball team to your market, you jump at that opportunity. Baseball becomes synonymous with great cities across this country. It helps form their identity.”

The group says it is targeting a “shovel-ready site” for a new MLB ballpark at the 100-acre Rocky Mountain Power District on Salt Lake City’s west side.

(Big League Utah)

“Utah has the strongest economy in the country, is a top 30 media market, and is the fastest-growing state with the youngest population,” Gov. Spencer Cox said. “These are the ingredients for a Major League Baseball market. As the Crossroads of the West, Utah has successfully hosted large sporting events, like the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and two NBA All-Star Games and is home to thriving professional and collegiate sports teams. We boast of the Greatest Snow on Earth, five national parks and 46 state parks. We are on the radar and pushing as hard as we can.”

On Wednesday, Rocky Mountain Power broke ground on Phase 1 of its Power District Project, which includes a new headquarters for the company. The Power District is “projected to transform the area located on the west side of Salt Lake City into a modern, sustainable, and vibrant space for businesses, fans and residents alike.”

MLB To SLC: LHM Group Announces Attempt To Bring Major League Baseball Team To Utah

Crossroads of the West

Big League Utah highlighted the stadium’s location, which would be near the Utah Transit Authority’s TRAX green line and FrontRunner, Interstates 15, 80 and 215, Redwood Road and the Salt Lake City International Airport, which is Delta’s largest hub in the western U.S.

“Salt Lake City is distinctly ready to be Major League Baseball’s newest home. The infrastructure we already have in place – from our world-class international airport to our robust public transit system, our hotel and hospitality sectors, and our arts, culture and entertainment community – make us a perfect fit for this evolution,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said. “Our capital city and the residents of North Temple near the Power District are poised for an investment like this, and I welcome the opportunity to keep growing this cultural and economic hub of our great state and region.”

“The Power District is ideally located between the Salt Lake City International Airport and downtown,” added Gary Hoogeveen, Rocky Mountain Power CEO. “A ballpark within our new development will be uniquely situated near I-80 and North Temple, along UTA’s light rail line, and have stunning views of the city’s skyline and Wasatch Mountains.”

In regard to potential MLB opponents, teams from both the American League West and National League West constantly fly over Utah as part of their regular season matchups.

(Big League Utah)

Can Utah sustain more pro sports franchises?

Ryan Smith, owner of the Utah Jazz and part-owner of Real Salt Lake, and Gov. Cox certainly think so.

“The one thing I am 100% convinced of is that we can support it in this market, especially if you look at the growth and where it is going,” he said during an interview with KSL Sports. “We’re opportunistic and we’re super ready.”

“It is a big enough market for both (an NHL and MLB franchises),” Cox said. “You will see a major push to work with both Major League Baseball and the NHL. We will see what that looks like moving forward but there certainly has been talk with expansion in Major League Baseball.”

The Beehive State has been home to the Utah Jazz since 1979, and despite missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015-16 this season, the Jazz still finished in the upper half of attendance in the NBA.

Big League Utah said the Jazz have constantly ranked in the top 3 for NBA local TV ratings and outperforms other like markets in both ticketing and sponsorship revenue.

Real Salt Lake has called Utah home since coming into MLS as an expansion side in 2005 and finished the 2022 season with an average attendance of 20,470 at home games. That was good enough for No. 11 in the league — behind top 3 clubs Atlanta, Charlotte and Seattle, and ahead of New England (No. 12) and Chicago (No. 25), all of which play in much larger NFL stadiums.

The Utah Royals are also returning to the NWSL after a brief hiatus. The Royals averaged the second-highest attendance in the league during their three seasons (2018-20) at over 11,000.

Orlando and Portland are the only other cities with just NBA, MLS and NWSL teams. Momentum has been growing for Portland to land an MLB expansion team for years, with the Portland Diamond Project being the latest iteration of that movement. Nashville’s Music City Baseball has also expressed interest in landing an MLB team and Las Vegas is the front-runner for landing a relocated Oakland A’s team, if it rejects a waterfront stadium proposal in the Bay Area.

The U.S. Census gave the Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem combined statistical area gives a population of just under 2.75 million as of 2021, and Utah is currently

Census CSA sizes

  • Portland-Vancouver-Salem, Oregon: 3,284,359
  • Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah: 2,747,569
  • Las Vegas-Henderson, Nevada: 2,345,926
  • Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee: 2,144,437

According to ESPN, leaders of the Salt Lake City group highlighted having a Top 30 media market that’s larger than that of four current MLB teams: San DiegoKansas CityCincinnati and Milwaukee.

So far in 2023, five MLB teams have averaged fewer than 20,000 fans at each game.

Big League Utah also said the state has the highest median income of potential MLB expansion markets. “A family-friendly state, Utah is also a leader in youth sports programs, including the Junior Bees, the largest MiLB youth program with 20,000 participants and growing and the Junior Jazz, launched in 1983, is the longest-running junior NBA program.”

When could an MLB team arrive?

The coalition said this could be a multi-year initiative as MLB looks to expand to 32 teams. Commissioner Rob Manfred has previously expressed a desire to resolve stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa before expansion.

What about the Salt Lake Bees?

Big League Utah also said Utah could keep the Salt Lake Bees, which recently announced plans to move to a new stadium in 2025.

The stadium will be located in South Jordan, within the master-planned Daybreak community. The team said the new ballpark will be built on undeveloped property between Mountain View Corridor and the TRAX red line.

The coalition said five other MLB markets have both big league and Triple-A clubs within 45 miles of each other:

  • Minnesota Twins & St. Paul Saints
  • Houston Astros & Sugarland Space Cowboys
  • Atlanta Braves & Gwinnett Stripers
  • Seattle Mariners & Tacoma Rainiers
  • Boston Red Sox & Worcester Red Sox

Daybreak and the Power District are approximately 16 miles apart.

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MLB to Utah? Plans unveiled to build ‘shovel-ready’ ballpark at SLC site