The Rays are finalizing plans for a brand new stadium, which suggests MLB growth might be on deck


If the Rays full the stadium as deliberate, then the MLB may have a look at increasing its groups for the primary time in 25 years.

Construction workers look on as the final piece of structural steel is lifted into place at Bank One Ballpark in downtown Phoenix.
Development employees look on as the ultimate piece of structural metal is lifted into place at Financial institution One Ballpark in downtown Phoenix, the long run dwelling of the main league growth group Arizona Diamondbacks, Friday, Aug. 8, 1997. AP Photograph/Eric Drotter, File

The Tampa Bay Rays are finalizing plans for a brand new ballpark in downtown St. Petersburg, which is a optimistic improvement for baseball followers in Florida.

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Not directly, it may additionally imply nice issues for baseball followers in a pair different cities — finally.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it clear a number of occasions over the previous few years that he’s all for increasing to 32 groups, however that sentiment got here with a caveat: All present 30 huge league groups wanted to have steady stadium conditions earlier than including groups for the primary time since 1998.

Now that the Rays have introduced plans for a brand new 30,000-seat ballpark — as a part of a $6.5 billion improvement undertaking that features reasonably priced housing, retail, bars and eating places and a Black historical past museum — that seems to be the case. The Oakland Athletics have additionally struggled with stadium points for many years however are within the midst of a proposed transfer to Las Vegas — one which’s pending MLB approval and isn’t finalized but.

Assuming the Rays and A’s proposed stadiums are greenlit for building, and even when MLB decides to push from 30 to 32 franchises, it’ll be fairly some time earlier than these groups would take the sphere.

Right here is a number of the historical past, course of and value with regards to MLB growth.

It’s been 25 years since MLB expanded, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Satan Rays within the 1998 season for the league’s twenty ninth and thirtieth groups.

MLB had 16 groups for the primary six a long time of the twentieth century — not counting the Negro Leagues or short-lived Federal League — earlier than the American League added two groups in 1961. The Washington Senators grew to become the Minnesota Twins and a brand new franchise in Washington stored the Senators identify. The Los Angeles Angels had been additionally added.

The Nationwide League adopted go well with in 1962, including the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s.

MLB went to 24 groups in 1969, including the Seattle Pilots and Kansas Metropolis Royals within the AL, together with the San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos within the NL. The Pilots lasted only one season — immortalized in Jim Bouton’s guide “Ball 4” — and moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season.

In 1977, MLB went to 26 groups, including the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. It took 16 years for the Nationwide League to match, including the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins in 1993 for 28 groups.

Even when MLB rapidly strikes to develop, it could in all probability be round 2028 at the least earlier than any new groups begin competitors.

For a reference level, the transfer to 30 groups began with the formation of an MLB growth committee in March 1994. 5 teams made shows to the committee in November 1994 — Orlando, Florida.; Phoenix; St. Petersburg, Florida.; and two from the Northern Virginia space — with Phoenix and St. Petersburg awarded groups in March 1995.

Three years later, each groups began play, ending a four-year course of.

The highest 4 candidates for growth seem like — in no explicit order — Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Portland, Oregon; and Montreal.

The South has a rising inhabitants base that would appear ripe for one more group, although it’s uncertain that each Charlotte and Nashville would get franchises. Portland would develop the game’s West Coast presence.

Montreal — which had the Expos from 1969 till relocating to Washington in 2004 — was a much-loved cease on the schedule earlier than the franchise’s acrimonious exit to the U.S. capital. Followers have clamored to deliver the game again to town just about ever because it left.

Different cities are potential, and presumably MLB would hearken to all pitches. Areas which were talked about are Salt Lake Metropolis and Austin, Texas.

One factor seems to make sure — a brand new franchise goes to be a pricey funding.

Manfred mentioned again in 2021 that growth charges might be within the vary of $2.2 billion per group, which is what Sportico estimated as the common MLB franchise worth.

For reference, the Vegas Golden Knights paid a $500 million price to hitch the NHL in 2016. The NBA hasn’t expanded since 2004 with the addition of the Charlotte Bobcats for $300 million. The NFL final expanded in 2002, including the Houston Texans for $700 million.

The Diamondbacks and Rays each paid $130 million to enter MLB in 1998 whereas the Marlins and Rockies paid $95 million in 1993.

Again in 1977, the Blue Jays ($7 million) and Mariners ($6.5 million) paid even much less.

These prices wouldn’t cowl building of a brand new ballpark, both. Whereas the growth price would possible be paid by non-public group traders, the stadium may require upward of $1 billion in public cash.

AP Baseball Author Ronald Blum contributed to this report.