Carolina Hurricanes Owner Tom Dundon Working To Bring MLB To NC:
“Raleigh Is The Best Place In The Country For A New MLB Team”

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon wants to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to North Carolina, and he believes now is the time to try to make that happen.

“I will lead a group to put our best foot forward to get a Major League Baseball team in North Carolina,” Dundon said Monday night, in an exclusive interview with David Glenn of the new North Carolina Sports Network. “Now that the Hurricanes have a new lease all the way into 2044, now that we got the (PNC Arena) deal done, I want to try to bring another major asset to North Carolina.

“I know I’m biased, but I think Raleigh is the best place in the country for a new MLB team. And when I say that, I think we have the facts to back that up.”

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in July, during baseball’s annual All-Star break, that while there is no official timetable for the next round of MLB expansion, the league planned to put together its first expansion committee in more than a quarter-century by the end of 2023.

Major League Baseball is the only major American sports league that has not expanded in the last 25 years. There are 30 MLB franchises, and the most recent additions came in 1998, when the Tampa Bay Rays joined the American League and the Arizona Diamondbacks joined the National League.

The National Football League and the National Hockey League both already have 32 franchises, and many baseball officials have said that MLB, too, is ready to grow to that size.

The most recent NHL expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights (who started play in 2017), paid the league an entry fee of $500 million. According to Manfred, the next baseball expansion franchises should expect to pay MLB an entry fee in the neighborhood of $2.2 billion per team.

Asked about that lofty ($2.2 billion) number, Dundon said, “sounds reasonable.”

North Carolina, which has an estimated population of almost 11 million people, is the most populous state in the country without an MLB franchise. A similar-sized state, Ohio (11.7 million people), has had two MLB teams for more than 100 years: the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Guardians.

The population of North Carolina has roughly doubled in the past half-century. Over the last 35 years, the state has added franchises in the National Basketball Association (Charlotte Hornets-1988), the NFL (Carolina Panthers-1995), the NHL (Carolina Hurricanes-1997), the National Women’s Soccer League (North Carolina Courage-2017) and Major League Soccer (Charlotte FC-2022).

The Hornets, Panthers and Charlotte FC were expansion franchises. The Hurricanes (formerly the Hartford Whalers) and Courage (formerly the Western New York Flash) were relocated teams.

The Hornets, Panthers, Charlotte FC and most NASCAR teams are based in or very close to Charlotte, which is a top-25 media market (#21 according to Nielsen) and North Carolina’s most populous combined statistical area (CSA), with an estimated 2.9 million people, a number that ranks 21st nationally.

The Hurricanes (Raleigh) and Courage (Cary) are based in the Triangle, which also includes major college sports programs such as those at Duke (Durham), NC State (Raleigh) and UNC (Chapel Hill) as part of its sports culture. The Triangle also is a top-25 media market (#23 according to Nielsen), and it’s North Carolina’s second most populous CSA, with an estimated 2.2 million people, a number that ranks 31st nationally.

Based on current population estimates, even the Triangle’s 2.2 million population is comparable to those in the metro areas of current MLB teams such as the Cincinnati Reds (2.3 million), Pittsburgh Pirates (2.3 million), Kansas City Royals (2.2 million), Cleveland Guardians (2.1 million) and Milwaukee Brewers (1.6 million).

Whereas more than two dozen American states have had at least one year-to-year population decrease in recent years, both the greater Charlotte area and the Triangle region are projected to continue to grow at rapid rates over the next decade and beyond, making them even more attractive MLB expansion possibilities in the coming years.

In a recent visit on the David Glenn Show (see below), North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said the only thing a North Carolina-based bid for an MLB franchise was missing, given the state’s strong business environment and impressive demographics, was a sports-minded billionaire willing to step forward and lead the way.

“I am not the only one interested in making this happen,” Dundon said. “This is about the state of North Carolina: fans, businesses, the authorities. We, as a group, can work together and show why this is the best place to put a Major League Baseball team in the future.

“The demographics are clearly on our side. I think the commitments from fans, the business community and the authorities are also there. Now we just gotta go tell that story and show everybody else what we already know to be true.”