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Manfred Discusses MLB Expansion; Is Nashville a Contender?

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When discussing potential Major League Baseball expansion on Tuesday, commissioner Rob Manfred noted several possible markets, including Nashville

Manfred has openly shown interest in eventually expanding to 32 teams, but has been clear that the ongoing ballpark searches of the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s have to be resolved before MLB looks at adding more clubs. Still, it appears that there will be some intriguing options in the mix for MLB when it does decide to expand, and groups in both Montreal and Portland have been making the rounds about building new ballparks.

In a television interview with Fox Sports on Tuesday, Manfred was asked about potential expansion locations. Montreal and Portland were both mentioned by the commissioner, who also noted a mix of markets that included Nashville. More from the Tennessean:

Manfred, who is in Washington D.C. for the MLB All-Star Game, was asked to name potential locations during a television appearance on Fox Sports.

“We have a real list of cities that I think are not only interested in having baseball, but are viable in terms of baseball — places like Portland (Ore.), Las Vegas, Charlotte, (N.C.), Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada. We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.”

Nashville would be intriguing in multiple respects. Its growing sports scene includes two major league franchises–the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and NHL’s Nashville Predators–and it will soon welcome an MLS expansion club that is set to begin play in the coming years. As far as baseball is concerned, the city boasts a success minor league club in the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), who have been a solid draw since opening First Tennessee Park in 2015.

That said, the city will have to address concerns relating to leases for both the Titans and Predators, and plans for a new MLS stadium are still a work-in-progress. First Tennessee Park also came with a significant financial commitment, and the Sounds say that it is not a facility that can be expanded for an MLB franchise. More from the Tennessean:

Further complicating an MLB expansion push in Nashville: Metro government just recently spent $91 million to build 10,000-seat First Tennessee Park, home of minor league baseball’s Nashville Sounds, that opened in 2015. The Sounds are the affiliate of MLB’s Oakland Athletics.

Doug Scopel, vice president of operations for the Sounds, said the team has “one of the top, if not the top, minor league ballparks” in the country — one that cannot be expanded for MLB, he said.

“We look to continue having success here for many years,” Scopel said. “If and when the time comes for Nashville to consider Major League Baseball, that’s a conversation for city government and other folks to have.”

Nashville also faces major questions concerning the city’s two existing major league sports teams over the next decade as stadium leases for the Titans and Predators, at Nissan Stadium and Bridgestone Arena respectively, are set to expire.

The statuses of the Rays and A’s ballpark searches are still unresolved, so it is likely going to take considerable time before MLB starts moving forward with any serious expansion plans. That means that it will be a while before there is a better sense of which markets are viable options for an MLB expansion club, but the fact that Manfred continues to discussion expansion and potential landing spots indicates that the addition of new teams remains on the league’s radar.

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