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Utah has smart MLB proposal but challenges remain, former sports agent says

Coors Field in Denver has the largest outfield in the MLB. At 5,200 feet in elevation, the lower air density leads to hitter-friendly conditions.
David Zalubowski/AP
Coors Field in Denver has the largest outfield in the MLB. At 5,200 feet in elevation, the lower air density leads to hitter-friendly conditions.

Utah is in a good position to land a Major League Baseball expansion team, but weather and elevation could throw a curveball at plans for a team.

Now retired, Park City resident Tommy Tanzer used to represent Major League Baseball players and managers as they negotiated contracts with teams.

Tanzer praised the proposal to build a baseball stadium in the Fairpark neighborhood west of downtown Salt Lake City on the KPCW Locals New Hour Friday.

“The place where the stadium is very smart,” Tanzer said. “The fairgrounds is a beautiful, big area. It’s underutilized. It’s halfway between downtown and the airport right on the tracks, it’s perfect.” 

Utah is aiming to attract the MLB, which has discussed adding two expansion teams. Major sports leagues are turning to the Beehive State amid strong population growth. Professional hockey will debut in Salt Lake City this fall after Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith acquired the Arizona Coyotes for $1.2 billion last month.

The baseball stadium plan has financial support from the Utah Legislature and the Larry H. Miller Group, the former owner of the Utah Jazz.

Tanzer said one of the primary challenges of hosting a baseball team in Salt Lake City is the weather. He said Utah’s baseball stadium would likely need a retractable roof, which would add to the construction cost. That’s in addition to the billions of dollars the MLB would expect from a new team owner.

“The World Series keeps going now into late October, and you can see what happens in Chicago or New York,” Tanzer said. “Last year was Arizona and Texas, so it wasn’t a problem. But the newer stadiums in places that are challenged weather-wise have domes, retractable domes, but domes nonetheless.”

Tanzer’s other worry is Salt Lake’s elevation, which is above 4,000 feet.

“You notice why we don’t have big time golf tournaments here or in Denver,” Tanzer said. “The altitude is so high that the ball goes about 20% further, maybe even 30% further in baseball, and what you see is a very difficult situation in bringing in pitching. If you look at the Colorado Rockies, they really are the most failed organization in baseball.”

While hitters love the thin air, Tanzer said it’s hard to recruit and retain pitching talent in the mountains.

“The curveball doesn’t curve,” he said. “The sinker doesn’t sink, and the ball just once it gets up in the air, it keeps going. As a golfer, that’s why I live here.

The MLB has yet to formally decide on whether it wants to expand. But MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters earlier this year that he’d like to add two new teams sometime within his current contract, which expires in 2028.

Other contenders for a new MLB team include Nashville, Portland, Charlotte, and Montreal.

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