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Monday, May 20, 2024

MLB Wants To Expand Soon After Finding Homes For A’s, Rays

  • Median age of MLB ticket-buyers falls by three years to 43
  • Nearly all money owed to MLB clubs by Bally Sports for 2023 has been paid
Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

The stadium sagas of the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays remain decidedly thorny, but MLB is increasingly thinking about expansion.

The league’s plan to grow to 32 teams has long been contingent on getting the A’s and Rays new ballparks. But even as the A’s are still in the early stages of a move to Las Vegas and the Rays’ facility efforts are clouded by ownership drama, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t expect a long wait to select new markets.

“I hope pretty shortly thereafter, we would put together an expansion committee and start talking about issues associated with expansion,” said Manfred, speaking before Tuesday’s All-Star Game with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Nashville, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Montreal, and Portland are among the leading candidates.

Manfred used the forum to address other pressing matters concerning the league, including an update on its dilemma with regional sports networks: MLB and its teams have collected 94% of the 2023 rights fees owed by Bally Sports and bankrupt parent Diamond Sports Group.

Meanwhile, the commissioner added that Atlanta, which lost the 2021 All-Star Game, is a candidate to host the 2025 event, as are Baltimore, Toronto, Boston, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Texas will host next year’s All-Star Game, while Philadelphia will host in 2026.

Manfred also touted a three-year drop in the median age of MLB ticket-buyers compared to last year to 43. The new figure — also a six-year drop from 2019 — adds to already bullish 2023 attendance projections as fans embrace a 26-minute drop in average game times to 2:38.

“I think that’s really important,” said Manfred, who has made attracting younger fans a key priority.

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