What do major league baseball players think about Salt Lake City as a possible site for an expansion team?

Not too much, according to 100 active players on 22 teams The Athletic recently polled to get a pulse on some of the top storylines in the 2023 season.

Salt Lake City picked up only 2% of the vote among cities thought to be in the running for a new franchise.

Nashville at 69% was the overwhelming favorite, with Montreal at distant second with 10%. Charlotte and Austin came in at 5%, followed by Portland with 4% and Vancouver with 2%. Orlando, Raleigh-Durham and San Juan, Puerto Rico, also received votes in the poll.

In April, the Larry H. Miller Company announced it put together a coalition of influential Utahns to pursue an MLB team for Salt Lake City. Calling itself Big League Utah, the group includes business and community leaders, elected officials and former professional athletes.

The Millers’ big pitch: Inside Utah’s push for an MLB expansion team

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to expand baseball to 32 teams, but has said the league won’t consider adding two new franchises until the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A’s resolve ongoing stadium issues. The A’s appear headed to Las Vegas after Nevada lawmakers agreed last month to put $380 million in taxpayer money toward a $1.5 billion stadium.

Steve Starks, Larry H. Miller Company CEO, and other company executives came away from a meeting with Manfred last year confident that Salt Lake City is a viable candidate and legitimate contender.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe we had a very good chance at being one of two expansion markets,” he previously told the Deseret News.

Specifically, The Athletic poll asked players “What is the best potential expansion city?” While players like Nashville, a number of them identified a possible complication.

“I think the only issue with them going to Nashville would be, there are so many Cardinals, Braves and Reds fans in that area,” one current MLB player said in the anonymous survey. “I think it’d be like any other team at first; there’s not gonna be a huge fan base just at first. But overall, I think of all those cities Nashville for the long run would probably be best.”

One player said he chose Montreal because “I want a Montreal trip every year, so Montreal.”

Portland, seen as perhaps Salt Lake City’s biggest competition if baseball expands in the West, received divided reactions.

“Definitely not Portland,” one player told The Athletic, while another said, “It’s like a small town. I think they’d rally around a baseball team.”

The Athletic did not quote what any of the major leaguers might have said about Salt Lake City.

While current players aren’t keen on Salt Lake City as an expansion market, one former major league All-Star believes the city would embrace a team from the first pitch. Dale Murphy spent his last season with the expansion Colorado Rockies in 1993. The team drew more than 55,350 fans a game that year.

“I think Salt Lake City is primed to react the same way. It is just unbelievably exciting. I experienced that in their first year, their inaugural year, and it’s really exciting,” he recently told the Deseret News.

Local enthusiasm for a potential team is sky-high. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll in April found 81% of Utahns support bringing a franchise to the Beehive State.

In a statement Wednesday, Starks cited those numbers, while noting the campaign to land a team started just a few months ago.

“This support combined with Utah’s economic strength, growth, geographic advantages and quality of life make our state an ideal expansion market,” he said.

Utahns, however, are split on using taxpayer dollars to help fund a big league stadium. Utah government leaders say they won’t divert public funds directly to build a ballpark but acknowledged tax increment financing or a public-private partnership could be options. Whether Utah voters would have a say through a referendum remains to be seen.

Big League Utah has identified a site just west of downtown Salt Lake City in the Power District for a stadium. Construction of a ballpark could cost $500 million to $1.5 billion. Most newer major league fields were financed through a public-private partnership.

Should public funds be used to build an MLB stadium in Salt Lake City?

Backers of Salt Lake City’s effort to land a team point to Truist Park in Atlanta and the adjacent The Battery Atlanta, a mixed-use development and entertainment district built through a public-private partnership, as the blueprint for what they envision in Utah.

Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College economist who consults in the sports industry, said he thinks Salt Lake City is too small of a market for a major league team. He told the Deseret News earlier that he doesn’t see a deal getting done without taxpayer money, and that it would take 60% to 70% public financing to make it work.

Mike Plant, president and CEO of the Braves Development Company, previously told the Deseret News that Salt Lake City could “absolutely” replicate what the Braves are doing. “Salt Lake, just like every other market, has the ability to create an authentic environment that addresses some need that doesn’t exist there,” he said.