Thursday, March 09, 2006

SO YOU WANT TO BE A MAJOR LEAGUE CITY

There are plenty of stories about cities that want major league sports because it will give the impression that they have arrived. I have never really bought into this rationale. Jacksonville, Florida had a Superbowl and I never hear it spoken of with Miami as the metropolis of Florida. In fact, I don't hear it spoken of with Tampa or Orlando either.

In any case, something called the Biz Journal did an analysis of cities ripe for major sport expansion purely from an economic perspective. In other words, the money is there, you go find it to support your team. The methodology was kind of clunky, and is available at the link.

First, on a scale of 0 (totally unable to support a team) to 100 (completely financially capable of supporting a team) there was not one city in the United States that rated 100 for Major League Baseball. In fact, Hartford, Connecticut, with a score of 87 was the closest. Orlando was next with a 74. The possible destinations for the Expos like Portland (54), Las Vegas (63), and somewhere in Virginia (Virginia Beach/Norfolk) tops the list at 58) all are pretty far from being able to support a team. Syracuse, Grand Rapids, MI, Harrisburg, PA and Sarasota, FL all scored higher than Portland. I think that the Devil Rays and Twins might end up being contracted, rather than usefully moved.

Interestingly, it appears that the NFL could support an entire additional league, with 28 cities scoring 100. Albany, Austin, Birmingham, Dayton, Fresno, Lexington, Little Rock, Madison, Rochester, NY, and Tulsa are all cities on the list. Not to run these places down, but it is very surprising to me that the economics of the NFL are such that these cities have enough money to support a team. It makes me wonder how many teams New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have the money to support.

Finally, the NBA and NHL apparently have similar economics. The NBA is a tiny bit more epxensive to support. Still, the cities that could financially support either an NBA or NHL team is shocking mostly because cities that could support an NFL team apparently cannot support an NHL team! For instance, Greenville, SC could support an NFL team, but only scores a 95 for the NHL. Same for Madison. That is insane. The NHL is not even a major league at this point.

A few thoughts. First, presumably the relatively low number of games in an NFL season, even with inflated ticket prices, is a lower per season burden than the greater number of games in the NBA or NHL (let alone MLB). Still, one has to wonder if a more effective developmental league set up would be worthwhile when there are 28 cities with the money to support an NFL team. Maybe the USFL, which was in Birmingham (100), Portland (100), Tulsa (100) and played in the Spring wouldn't be such a bad idea for the NFL to consider as a minor league.

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