Major League Baseball is getting a little closer to Salt Lake City. And there’s a chance it could get a lot closer as soon as 2025.
No, an expansion team isn’t headed to the state today. But with baseball owners approving the Oakland A’s move to Las Vegas, fans won’t have to travel as far to see a big league game.
And under one possible scenario, Utahns wouldn’t have to travel at all to watch the A’s — at least temporarily.
The team’s impending move to Las Vegas comes after more than two decades of failed efforts to secure a new stadium in the city to replace the aging Oakland Coliseum. It received unanimous support despite unanswered questions about the team’s near-term future and stadium plans, per ESPN.
The A’s lease at the Coliseum expires after the 2024 season. The proposed $1.5 billion stadium on the Las Vegas Strip isn’t scheduled to open until 2028.
Utah might be the answer as the A’s look for a short-term home. The Beehive State can offer not one but two baseball stadiums, and one of them would be brand new.
Larry H. Miller Company, the owner of the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees, is moving the team from Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City after the 2024 season to a new stadium it broke ground on last month in South Jordan. The park is slated to open in spring 2025.
The new field is the centerpiece of a 200-acre mixed-use project called Downtown Daybreak the company is building. It includes a new Megaplex Cinema-Entertainment Center and an array of fresh office, retail and residential development.
The stadium would provide not only new locker rooms but top-notch amenities to accommodate a major league team. Plans call for 7,500 seats but that could be expanded to 10,000 or 12,000 to make it more appealing.
Ostensibly, the A’s could play in South Jordan, while the Bees, the top affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, could remain at Smith’s Ballpark for another three years.
Having the A’s in Utah would be a trial run of sorts of the Miller Company as it pursues a major league expansion team for Salt Lake City. It could also serve as a measuring stick for Utahns’ interest in a major league team.
CBS Sports baseball writer Matt Snyder in a story this week speculated about potential interim sites for the A’s, including Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City.
“Do not bet on the A’s having just one home before 2028. I wouldn’t even bet on just two. Apparently, they’ll be roaming. That’s far from ideal but nothing about this situation is ideal. It has happened, however, so now it’s time to deal with the repercussions,” he wrote.
Snyder lists five options: Oakland Coliseum, Oracle Park in San Francisco (home of the Giants), Las Vegas Ballpark (home of the A’s Triple-A affiliate), Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona (the A’s spring training field), and other Triple-A stadiums.
Smith’s Ballpark is on his list of Triple-A stadiums. The 15,400-seat stadium built in 1994 is the biggest in the Pacific Coast League.
“The problem here is the A’s would need to work with another big-league team on getting the OK to use the affiliate’s ballpark and that’s just more red tape,” Snyder wrote.
That might not be as big of a problem in Salt Lake City with two stadiums to offer, though the city appears ready to move on from the Bees. Salt Lake City, which owns Smith’s Ballpark, is considering how to use the stadium space after the team leaves, and doesn’t want to delay those plans.
City officials haven’t heard of or received a request regarding the A’s interest in using Smiths Ballpark, Salt Lake City spokesperson Jordan Carroll told the Deseret News.
“Obviously, there’s an immense amount of excitement and momentum around bringing Major League Baseball to Salt Lake City, especially as a growing number of analysts agree Salt Lake City is where it’s at. We’re ready for MLB expansion but wouldn’t be interested in delaying the rebirth of the Ballpark neighborhood until 2028,” she said.
The A’s could remain in Oakland until the Vegas stadium opens.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said extending the lease in Oakland is an option, though the city — which owns half the stadium, while the Athletics own the other half — has said in order to do so that it would need to keep the A’s name and move to the front of the line for a potential expansion franchise, per ESPN.
“We are disappointed by the outcome of this vote,” Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said in a statement. “But we do not see this as the end of the road. We all know there is a long way to go before shovels in the ground and that there are a number of unresolved issues surrounding this move. I have also made it clear to the commissioner that the A’s branding and name should stay in Oakland and we will continue to work to pursue expansion opportunities. Baseball has a home in Oakland even if the A’s ownership relocates.”
If baseball does give Oakland serious consideration for an expansion team, it would mean more competition for Salt Lake City and other cities vying for a franchise.
Some observers, including ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney and Cy Young Award winner David Cone, have said that after Nashville, Salt Lake City seems the most likely city for an expansion team. Other cities in the mix include Portland, Charlotte, Montreal and Austin.
When the A’s arrive in Las Vegas, they will displace Denver as the closest major league city to Salt Lake City.