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An NFL team in Utah? Gov. Spencer Cox says ‘no limit’ on how hard he’d push for that

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) tosses a souvenir to a fan after playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) tosses a souvenir to a fan after playing the Kansas City Chiefs during an NFL game on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. As media reports of possible NFL expansion swirl, Utah would be “all over” an opportunity to bring a professional football team to the state, Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday.
John McCoy, Associated Press

As media reports of possible NFL expansion swirl, Utah would be “all over” an opportunity to bring a professional football team to the state, Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday.

“I don’t know if there’s a limit on how hard I would push to get an NFL team here in Utah,” Cox said in response to a question about the league during his monthly PBS Utah news conference.

The first-term governor said he understands the NFL market, and that even though Utah is a fast-growing state, it would be on the small side as a potential location for a franchise.

“I know a lot of people are excited to have the Raiders in Vegas. We’ve been working closely with the Raiders to help them expand and do more with Utah, so there’s a natural connection there,” Cox said.

“If there’s an opportunity for an NFL franchise here in the state of Utah, we would be all over that,” he said. “We are the state of sport.”

Several sports news outlets are reporting that the NFL is considering expanding to up to 40 teams, with cities like London, Toronto, Mexico City, St. Louis and San Antonio at the top of the list.

“The conversations about possibly growing to 40 teams already are happening, at the highest levels of the league,” Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio wrote. “It will take time to get there, but in time it will happen. The money will make it so.”

Cox, however, said he wouldn’t support the state subsidizing the construction of a stadium for a billionaire owner.

“I don’t like giving billionaires money from taxpayers. I think that’s a mistake,” he said, though he wouldn’t oppose some tax increment financing or providing land for a stadium.

The governor said he doesn’t like owners “holding people hostage to write them a check” for a stadium, calling it “terrible economics” and “bad politics.” He said he doesn’t support what he’s seen in some cities where owners have threatened to move the team if they don’t get a billion-dollar stadium.

“That’s crazy, and any billionaire who asks for that should be embarrassed,” he said.

Draper Mayor Troy Walker told the Deseret News last month that he’d love to see “some major league sports entertainment center” on the site of the Utah State Prison, which will be torn down to make way for mixed-use development called The Point.

“If I had my dream, it would be the NFL,” he said. “But I’d take baseball.”

The odds of Utah getting a Major League Baseball franchise are “probably a little higher than getting an NFL franchise at some point, so we’re keeping our eyes on that,” Cox said.

Utah had a professional football team, the Salt Lake Stallions, in the short-lived Alliance of American Football. The league folded after eight games in 2019.

Las Vegas Raiders fans are pictured during the second half of an NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Las Vegas.
Rick Scuteri, Associated Press