Could Vancouver be in line for a Major League Baseball franchise?
According to the league’s commissioner, it’s a possibility.
Speaking before Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league is looking to expand and that Vancouver is a viable market.
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Thousands of local MLB fans drive south each year to watch the Seattle Mariners. When the Blue Jays come to play at Safeco Field, the stands are filled with British Columbians wanting to see Canada’s only major league team.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said it “was good to see our name mentioned again” with regards to MLB expansion and noted the recent success of the Vancouver Canadians, the short-season single-A league team that plays to capacity crowds at Nat Bailey Stadium.
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Prior to the Canadians, the city had a long history of supporting minor league teams, including the Vancouver Mounties, Vancouver Capilanos and the strangely-named Vancouver Horse Doctors, who played their first season back in 1905.
But there is a huge difference between selling out a minor league ballpark in the summer and hosting 81 home games a year in a Major League venue.
Arthur Griffiths, the former owner of the Vancouver Canucks, said the city has plenty going for it.
“If I were putting together a list of top 10 needs for a franchise location, Vancouver’s got nine of 10,” Griffiths said.
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“It’s an affluent market, it’s an international market and it’s a vibrant economy,” he said.
There is one big stumbling block, however — a venue.
BC Place wasn’t designed with baseball in mind, and building a new stadium would be costly.
“Would they be able to play there until a franchise built a stadium? Possibly,” Griffiths said. “But where do you buy the land and build a stadium?”
Griffiths, who helped bring an NBA team to Vancouver in the 1990s, thinks a return of the NBA is far more likely.
Other cities Manfred mentioned as possible markets include Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville and Montreal, which was home to the MLB’s Expos from 1969 to 2004.
— With files from Ted Chernecki