With MLB expansion ahead, will Charlotte make a pitch?

CHARLOTTE — If Charlotte plans to play ball in Major League Baseball’s next round of expansion, someone might want to find a rally cap and get to work.

The Tampa Bay Rays and local government leaders in Florida this week disclosed plans to share construction costs for a $1.3 billion domed stadium in downtown St. Petersburg. Resolving the Rays’ long-running quest for a new ballpark — and deciding this fall whether to allow the Oakland A’s to relocate to Las Vegas because of their disputes over taxpayer funding for a new stadium — would set the stage for MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to move forward with plans to add two new teams.

MLB last expanded 25 years ago, adding the Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The league now has 30 clubs.

Charlotte has, for several decades, been considered a maybe-in-10-years candidate for adding big league baseball. More recently, Manfred and other industry analysts have elevated the city to a more prominent position while publicly pondering expansion sites, including Charlotte with usual suspects Nashville, Montreal and Portland. Salt Lake City has become part of the conversation lately, too.

This week, MLB did not provide any updated information about expansion. The commissioner has said he and the team owners will take up expansion once Oakland and Tampa Bay have secured long-term stadium solutions. Tampa Bay now looks certain to stay and open a new stadium while the A’s have at least one foot out the door but have yet to receive final approval from MLB.

“I think everybody is interested in Major League Baseball if your market can support it,” Charlotte Sports Foundation co-chair and real estate executive Johnny Harris told CBJ. “I think Charlotte can support Major League Baseball if it wants it.”

Then, he added, “But there is a lot involved in that.”

CBJ caught up with several local leaders and industry experts about how it might play out. Read the full story here.

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