Assessment of Cities in the Big Three: Part II

Continued from Part I

Sport Change will be cranking out some relocation scenarios in the near future.  We’ve already assessed the franchises in the “Big Three” leagues (NFL, NBA, and MLB) that are deemed fair game for relocation, but now the big question now is: Where To?

Don’t worry hockey: your time will come.

So when we left off, we were right here:

For the NFL, we’ll be assessing two markets that have representation in both MLB and the NBA, four markets that have reps in the NBA, and our NFL outlier: Omaha.  That makes seven potential locations.

For the NBA, we’ll be looking at a whopping eight teams that have reps in both the NFL and MLB, one city with just an NFL rep, and our outlier: Virginia.  That’s 10 potential locations.

For MLB, it’ll be four markets with both NFL and NBA, that one market with just an NFL team, the four “just NBA” locations that I haven’t thrown out as anomalies, and of course–our outlier: Louisville.  That’s 10 potential locations.

Let’s assess and rank:

NFL

We’ll start with the NFL.  The 2 markets that have representation in both MLB and the NBA are Los Angeles and Toronto.  The 4 cities that have representatives in at least somewhat respectable or promising NBA markets are: Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, and Portland.  The Sport Change selected outlier is Omaha.  Let’s assess:

-Los Angeles is the no-brainer top choice for the NFL’s next relocation move.  There may even be two teams coming to LA.  I’ll tackle this topic with an individual post around Labor Day as part of Sport Change’s NFL kickoff celebration.

Sport Change brings you this breaking story: The NFL Might Move to Los Angeles!

-Oklahoma City is an interesting thought.  With the success of the Thunder and Oklahoma’s love for football, you can bet that there are Clay Bennett types with schemes behind the scenes.  I think OKC could support an NFL franchise, but that could take a while.

-Omaha was our outlier, narrowly beating out Virginia, Las Vegas, Iowa, etc.  Football has it’s roots in the Midwest, and Huskers fans make Nebraska look like a strong market.  I could see it, but no more than I could see a city like Salt Lake working.

-Portland.  I really don’t see this being much of a market for the NFL.  Portland would be a natural rival for the Seahawks, but I question whether the city is large enough or sports-interested enough to sustain a franchise.  Portland is notorious for eschewing public funding for stadiums, so for now, I think the Blazers and the MLS can give Portlanders enough to cheer for.

-Salt Lake City.  Meh.  It may work, but it’s not at the top of the list.

-San Antonio makes good amount of sense to me.  Sports-crazy Texas may already have two well-loved teams, but the NBA sure makes it work with three vital Lone Star State franchises.  The main difference is that the three NBA teams in Texas are relatively new and on equal footing as far as history and reverence go.  In San Antonio, you can bet that there would be quite a few skeptical Cowboys fans.

-Toronto isn’t quite ready for an NFL team, in my opinion.  There was some talk a few years ago of the Bills moving there, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon.  If the NFL were to expand to 40 teams, the Ontario market might make sense.  For now, there’s no need.  Toronto is a very large city with an appreciation for sports, but their football attention can be directed toward the Bills or the Argonauts.

Ranking. In ranking them, it was more than obvious that LA would be number one.  There was a little tussle in the Wild West between OKC and San Anton, but the “Cowboys factor” swayed me toward the Okies.  Salt Lake and Omaha were a bit of a toss-up.  Salt Lake is more realistic, but more boring.  Omaha is riskier but more exciting.  Since we don’t want to be exploring the relocation of the failed Omaha franchise twenty years from now, we’ll take the safer pick.  I wanted to rank Toronto last, but it’s such a strong market for any sport.  Like I said, if Roger’s Goodell’s master plan of expanding to 40 NFL teams sees fruition, I think Toronto and Buffalo could coexist.  In fact, a Toronto team in the AFC East would be a blast.  Portland is just too wimpy of a city for the NFL.  They’ll get a better shake when we look at baseball.

NFL Ranks:

1. Los Angeles, 2. Oklahoma City, 3. San Antonio, 4. Salt Lake, 5. Omaha, 6. Toronto, 7. Portland

NBA

Moving on to basketball.  It’s hard to believe that there are 8 teams represented by both MLB and the NFL but not the NBA, but here they are: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa.  The one city (remember that Jacksonville was thrown out as an anomaly) that has a rep in the NFL but not the NBA is Buffalo.  Our outlier is Virginia.  Let’s assess:

-Baltimore.  I can’t speak for Baltimoreans, but I assume that plenty of them kept their allegiance to the Bullets when they moved a little bit South to Washington.  However, the NFL and MLB have shown that Charm City can support franchises even with other teams in Washington–in fact, they seem to be doing an even better job than Capital City.  With the Wizards trying to forge their identity in Washington, perhaps there is room for a new Baltimore franchise.

At some point, will the NBA bite the bullet and give Baltimore a new franchise?

-Cincinnati.  Cincy had the Royals from ’57-’72 and during that time had a veritable star in Oscar Robertson.  The Bengals have certainly had their issues over the years in Cincinnati, but the Reds have a long history punctuated with eras of brilliance.  With the absence of an NBA team, b-ball fans in Cincy seem to have gone all-in on the Cincinnati Bearcats.  Additionally, the other Ohio team–the Cavs–have had their issues.  Another team in that state could spread things even more thin than they already are.  It’s hard to see Cincinnati as a top choice for a franchise relocation, but I think it could be a city capable of adequately sustaining an NBA team.

-Buffalo.  Before they moved West to become the Clippers, there were the NBA’s Buffalo Braves–a team that lasted a mere seven years in the league.  The Braves didn’t have much success on the court, though their financial status when they moved is uncertain.  It seems that the main reason the Braves became the Clippers is because their owner (John Y. Brown) wanted to have a team in his homestate of California, thus the Clippers.  Guess who brokered the deal?  None other than a young David Stern.  Is Buffalo a suitable locale for an NBA team?  Not likely.  The Bills have a hard time keeping the cogs turning, and they’re a longstanding organization that shares a market with Toronto.  A Buffalo franchise in the NBA would have to woo current fans of the Raptors, Knicks, and even the Nets.

-Kansas City.  The now Sacramento Kings called Kansas City home from ’72-’85, after relocating from Cincinnati and rebranding from Royals.  A bit of a shame now, as KC seems fully capable of fielding moderately competitive and certainly popular clubs in the NFL and Major League Baseball.  Kansas City is a good-sized city and one that seems hungry for sports.

-Pittsburgh.  It’s almost surprising to be reminded that there is no NBA team in Pittsburgh.  It’s so easy to take for granted the history and successes of the Steelers in particular, but also the Pirates and Penguins.  Pittsburgh is not a huge city, but it is a city that loves sports.  If Pitt Panthers fans have room in their heart for another basketball team, the NBA might be ready.

-San Diego.  The Clippers once called San Diego home and the Conquistadors/Sails were ABA staples.  Perhaps if the Clippers ever leave Staples, a Southern reversion could be in order.  Unlikely, though, especially with the recent success of the Clips.  Other than that, I just can’t see it.  San Diego is a large city, but they’ve struggled to find their stride in both the NFL and MLB.  There has been plenty of talk of the Chargers leaving for L.A.  If that were to happen, San Diego would have the mark of a city that sports teams move out of rather than move in to.

-Seattle.  No need to get into this too deep.  Simply put: the Sonics were stolen from Seattle under shady pretenses.  Seattle is a large sports-loving city that is ready for the Sonics to come home.

-St. Louis.  Like Pittsburgh, I’m always surprised to be reminded that there is no NBA team in the Gateway City.  After they moved from Milwaukee in 1955, the Hawks called St. Louis home until they were shuffled off during the Atlanta fever of the late sixties–wherein Georgia was gifted with the Braves, Falcons, and yes, the Hawks.  Though not as big as another Missouri city, St. Louis has a nice, rich sports history with baseball Cardinals, the old football Cardinals, and the St. Louis Rams’ occasional flashes of brilliance.

-Tampa.  Well this one is easy.  No way.  The Bucs and Rays have proved that Tampa is lukewarm at best with support of pro sports.  Florida already has two NBA teams, at least one too many.  The only way I would agree with this is if the Magic moved to Tampa.  Boy, I’ve really been picking on the Magic lately, eh?

-Virginia.  Our outlier is a fun idea, but it’s hard to gain any headway with this list of 10.  Additionally, if the Bobcats are truly making a go of it and the Wizards are staying put for now, it may be tough for Virginia to elbow it’s way into the fray.  Fun idea, though.

Ranking.  Seattle is an easy choice at rank number one.  The next five all seem all worthy of an NBA team.  It’s not an exact science.  I picked St. Louis next followed by Pittsburgh.  Baltimore shoots in at number four and Cincy competes with the Cavs at number five.  Since I’ve already picked a Missouri team, KC slides to six–hey, they can always cheer for Oklahoma, right?  Who say’s everything’s up to date in Kansas City?   The final four are somewhat inconsequential:  San Diego sails in at seven, Buffalo stands Brave at eight, Virginia hits the beach, and Tampa can go fly a kite…in a Lightning storm.

NBA Ranks:

1. Seattle, 2. St. Louis, 3. Pittsburgh, 4. Baltimore, 5. Cincinnati, 6. Kansas City, 7. San Diego, 8. Buffalo, 9. Virginia, 10. Tampa

MLB

That brings us to the old codger in the group, Major League Baseball.  MLB doesn’t go through too many changes these days, and that’s a good thing.  Sport Change will be exploring the relocation of at least one team, however, and so we do this exercise.  The four markets that have both NFL and NBA, but no MLB franchise are: Charlotte, Indianapolis, Tennessee, and New Orleans.  Buffalo has an NFL team.  The four teams just in the NBA (with anomalies thrown out) are: Oklahoma City, Portland, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio.  The Sport Change-selected outlier is Louisville.  Let’s assess:

-Buffalo.  Again: it’s hard to see a pro team setting up shop in Buffalo these days.  The International League’s Buffalo Bisons do well, but wouldn’t you say that in some cases it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond.  I like the idea of a pro ballclub in Buffalo, it’s not that realistic.

-Charlotte.  No.  The AAA Charlotte Knights are unable to fill seats, the NBA’s Bobcats are unable to fill seats, and Hornets just left town.  Granted, the Panthers do well, but I still couldn’t endorse an MLB team in Charlotte.  Let North Carolineans cheer for the handfuls of cool farm clubs they’ve already got.

Why would North Carolina need a pro ball club. Aren’t they satisfied with the Hickory Crawdads?

-Indianapolis.  Indy is compelling.  The Colts do very well and the Pacers even manage to stay competitive on the court and in the marketplace.  The AAA Indianapolis Indians are one of the more successful farm clubs in the nation.  I think Indy should be right near the top of the list.

-Louisville.  The city of Louisville is surprising large–and has more people than about half of cities represented by MLB.  The AAA Louisville Bats draw close to an average of 9,000 fans per game, and that’s the minors!  Speaking of bats, the Slugger factory is right in town.  Talk about home bat advantage.  If the teams breaks too many, they can call the factory and have them deliver on demand.  In all seriousness, I think this outlier would be a great consideration and would give a good city a pro team to root for.

-New Orleans.  No.  The AAA Zephyrs do alright, but NOLA has had trouble convincing the world that it can support pro sports.  The Saints are popular, but the Hornets…not so much.  It just doesn’t seem like a baseball city.

-Oklahoma City.  With the success of the Thunder, OKC is a sexy market.  I grant them that, but I also see that the AAA Redhawks about where the Zephyrs are.  The market might support a team, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of the list.

-Portland.  Portland has been thrown around quite a bit in talks of MLB relocation or expansion in the last few years.  I guess that means it earns some points for street cred.  In reality, the city blocked funding for a new stadium for the AAA Portland Beavers.  In the wake, the Beavs were moved to Tuscon.  This could mean two things: 1. Portland is not up to the challenge of supporting a AAA team, let alone a pro team.  2. The city said, “Forget the Beavs, we’re holding out for MLB!”  In either case, I could see Portland eventually being a good home for pro ball.  The Blazers and the MLS do well, and it would be nice to see a natural rival for the Mariners.

-Salt Lake City.  Meh.  A middling market, but would likely do OK.  Just OK, like the AAA Salt Lake Bees.  Like I said above in the NFL section, it’s a safe but boring choice.

-San Antonio.  This is more of an enigma.  Texas is baseball crazy.  The Rangers are very popular, but the Astros struggle a bit.  San Antonio is in the top ten most-populous cities in the U.S., and the Spurs are very well-liked.  However, the AA San Antonio Missions draw less fans than any other team in the Texas League.  Less than the Midland RockHounds and the freakin’ Northwest Arkansas Naturals.  Tough call.  We’ll see where San Anton ranks shortly.

-Tennessee.  Go Titans and Grizzlies, say Tenneseeans with a lukewarm cheer.  The AAA Memphis Redbirds do well, but that’s largely due to them being the vice president of the Cardinals and due to Memphis being such a large city.  The Nashville Sounds, as well as the AA Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Jackson franchises do very…mediocre.  I don’t really see this being one of the best paths that MLB could take.  Just OK.

Ranking.  It’s a bit of a toss-up for the top three, but I picked Indy then Louie then Portie.  OKC and SLC round out the middle, with Buffalo, San Antonio, Tennessee, New Orleans, and Charlotte bringing up the rear.

MLB Ranks:

1. Indianapolis, 2. Louisville, 3. Portland, 4. Oklahoma City, 5. Salt Lake City, 6. Buffalo, 7. San Antonio, 8. Tennessee, 9. New Orleans, 10. Charlotte.

The Rays to Indy? The Jags to OKC? The Magic to Missouri? What mysteries will Sport Change unfurl for your pondering pleasure?  Stay posted!

In Conclusion: this was a tedious but necessary exercise that will help Sport Change to envision teams being relocated, rebranded, or added through expansion.  The fun part will come next.  The teams that came out of the Sport Change “fair game” analysis for the NFL, NBA, and MLB with some questions about them may be coupled with this study in relocation scenarios that would potentially be beneficial for the teams and for the games themselves.

Thank you for reading.  Please leave comments.

SPORT CHANGE

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