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Bats on the Strip—Is a Las Vegas MLB Team Closer Than We Thought?

Bats on the Strip—Is a Las Vegas MLB Team Closer Than We Thought?
If the rumor mill rings true, the day when a Vegas baseball team is perched among Oddschecker’s World Series contenders may not be far off if MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and investors get their way (Image by skeeze from Pixabay).

Recent rumblings on Twitter, especially those from @VitalVegas, claim building permits near South Point between Mandalay Bay and M Resort on Las Vegas Boulevard have been activated in preparation for an MLB stadium.

And Manfred is reportedly onboard with bringing the highest level of America’s pastime to Sin City. Other sports outlets are hinting that the MLB wants to announce an expansion franchise, possibly as soon as the conclusion of the 2019 World Series.

The time frame suggests an official word on expansion could hit before Halloween.

It’s possible Chicago entrepreneur Lou Weisbach is affiliated with stadium building permits, if they exist. He was previously reported as drawing interest from investors and local leaders in favor of an MLB team in a December 2018 report by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Weisbach, who runs a sports stadium and entertainment venue financing firm, tried unsuccessfully to bring the Montreal Expos to Vegas in the early 200s. The Expos instead became the Washington Nationals.

To be clear, every whisper about an MLB team coming to Vegas rattling around social media and sports blogs is speculative at this point.

But Vegas was on the tip of Manfred’s tongue a year ago when asked about where he sees the MLB going next.

“Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver in Canada [could be expansion markets”, the MLB chief told FS1’s First Things First in July 2018.

Bats on the Strip—Is a Las Vegas MLB Team Closer Than We Thought?

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

The last net expansion of the MLB occurred in 1998 when the National League added the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Rays) joined the American League. The move 21 years ago resulted in the two leagues growing from 28 to 30 total teams.

Ostensibly, an expansion team in Vegas would be paired with a second franchise elsewhere to maintain an even balance of teams between leagues.

If history is any guide, the time for MLB expansion is past due. From the beginning of the modern expansion era in 1961 through the last expansion in 1998, pro baseball’s governing organization awarded new franchises every six years on average.

The MLB is no stranger to Vegas during the offseason. The Winter Meetings, an annual powwow in December when representatives from all 30 teams gather to conduct business and player trades, was held here in 2008 and 2018.

During the 2018 meetings and earlier this year, Vegas native and free-agent Bryce Harper courted prospective teams largely from the comforts of Mandalay Bay. The Philadelphia Phillies ultimately won the Harper sweepstakes with a 13-year, $330 million deal.

Vegas has quickly proven itself a worthy hometown for professional sports franchises. Forays into Sin City by the NHL and NFL demonstrate a solid foundation of fan support and financing.

The NHL’s Golden Knights arrived in 2017-18. The team managed a historic Stanley Cup Final run in the inaugural campaign before losing the championship to the Washington Capitals.

The Vegas hockey team last season posted an average attendance of 18,318 fans per game at T-Mobile Arena. Along with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild, the Golden Knights were one of three NHL teams to average 100-percent capacity at home.

Meanwhile, the current Oakland Raiders are gearing up to move to under-construction Las Vegas Stadium for the 2020 NFL season. The 65,000-seat, $1.8 billion venue is being funded by Clark County municipal bonds, the Raiders organization, and a $200 million loan from the NFL.

Some critics have noted concerns about the city’s suitability for an MLB team, citing a small television market, local population base, and intense competition for entertainment dollars. Still, with 43 million annual visitors, Vegas boasts a transient population that would help fill the ballpark on any given night.

Again, the current hype surrounding an MLB move into Vegas could amount to nothing. But it’s an interesting prospect to consider.