Major League Baseball would be open to having a team in Las Vegas, Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday.
With two existing franchises — the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays — struggling to secure financing for new stadiums, the option of relocating a team to Las Vegas is very much on the table.
“If we were looking at relocation,” Manfred said, “Las Vegas would be on the list.”
The National Hockey League and the National Football League are moving into the nation’s gambling capital, breaking a barrier — and tapping into a market — that had previously hadn’t been penetrated by professional sports.
“Those are two big moves,” Manfred said during an annual meeting with a group of sports editors at league headquarters. “We’ll be watching that carefully.”
Manfred didn’t rule out the possibility of an expansion franchise in Las Vegas, but added that “until the Tampa Bay and Oakland situations are settled, I can’t see talking about expansion.”
The Rays’ chances of staying in Tampa Bay were bolstered slightly this week when a measure in the Florida Senate that would have prohibited professional sports teams from using public money failed to pass. Without some sort of public funding, it’s doubtful Rays ownership could raise enough private capital to renovate or replace Tropicana Field.
Manfred also acknowledged that the Miami Marlins were for sale and that a group headed by Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush was “among a group of appealing bidders.”
An owner with strong Florida roots would be desirable, Manfred said, referring to Bush, the former governor and long-time resident of the state. Jeter would bring star power as well as diversity, another plus for the group.