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Home Joe Tetreault Re-Ranking the Top 10 Markets for Relocation or Expansion

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Joe Tetreault Article Archive
Written by Joe Tetreault   
Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:13

 The stadium situation in Tampa has already created a chorus of calls to relocate the Rays. This week the club has battled the Yankees for first place to two-thirds capacity crowds in Tropicana Field. The Rays have made clear to municipal officials in Tampa that they want a new stadium and they would require significant subsidies if not outright public funding to make a new facility a reality.

The desire of Tampa-St. Pete to field an MLB team was the driving force behind the construction of the Rays' current stadium which was completed in 1990, eight years prior to the Rays taking the field. Ironically, the presence of the Florida Suncoast Dome (since renamed twice) was used both by the White Sox and the Giants as leverage to get new stadiums approved and built by the cities they call home. Now the Rays need some juice to squeeze Tampa for a new facility.

But looking at the map, the possible locations a club might pack up and move to are few and far between. Two years ago, Maury Brown took to this space to examine the most likely relocation or expansion markets. And while he concluded then and I concur now that expansion is a highly unlikely proposition, the availability of viable locations reflects potential for growth.

The primary limiting factor that prompts us to revise our list is the worldwide economic crisis and in particular the bursting of the domestic housing bubble that occurred shortly after the original list was published. In and of itself that crisis obliterated at least one previously considered city's aspirations. And that city, knocked down several pegs from number four will lead off our list:

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE OUR REVISED TOP TEN RELOCATION OR EXPANSION MARKETS

10 – Las Vegas, NV.

Population: 1,563,282 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: Los Angeles (270 miles), Anaheim (222 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Athletics, Giants, D-Backs

Median Household Income: $42,468

Television information: Ranks 42nd in 2009-10 DMA (721,780 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 33rd (Metro 12+ population - 1,574,100)

Number of Major League Teams: 0

Interim/New Facility location: Cashman Field (seating capacity – 9,334)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 1,563,282

Pros

Las Vegas' strength was its phenomenal growth. But the housing crash has arrested Sin City's expansion. It remains the premier entertainment destination in North America and a likely location for a major professional franchise at some point in the future.

Cons

Stadium funding would be the biggest hurdle. Cashman Field is entirely inadequate to the challenge. When the Rangers relocated to Arlington from Washington, they originally played in Arlington Stadium, which was merely a renovated and expanded Turnpike Stadium which housed the minor league Fort Worth Cats. But the original Turnpike Stadium was built with luring a team to Dallas as it was designed for further expansion to 50,000 seats. Cashman Field would require a much more extensive renovation to accommodate a big league team.

The factor that traditionally has limited Las Vegas' appeal is the city's integral connections to gambling. Though teams have begun to sponsor lottery games, the appearance of any potential impropriety involving wagering has given every league pause when contemplating Las Vegas as a potential market. That stigma seems to be fading, but still Vegas waits for a team. Their wait will continue at least as long as it takes for the economy to stabilize.

9 - Sacramento, CA.

Population: 1,796,857 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: San Francisco (88 miles), Oakland (81 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Athletics, Giants

Median Household Income: $46,106

Television information: Ranks 20th in 2009-10 DMA (1,404,580 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 27th (Metro 12+ population - 1,839,800)

Number of Major League Teams: 1 (NBA Kings also WNBA Monarchs)

Interim/New Facility location: Raley Field (seating capacity – 11,093, 14,111 with Standing Room Seats)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 898,429

Pros

Sacramento is a city that is on the edge of viability for major league clubs. Residents attend River Cats games with fervor, filling Raley Field with regularity. The stadium is also a recent construction with gorgeous site lines of downtown Sacramento, which would instantly give stadium a charm that most expanded minor league parks have lacked.

Reno and Lake Tahoe are close enough to lend credence to the thought that fans may make the trek to take in a ballgame with some frequency. The ability to partner with the Kings on promotions and a possible regional sports network opens up other revenue streams.

Cons

All those pros are iffy propositions. The primary industry that drives Sacramento is California's frequently dysfunctional state government, which limits corporate sponsorships and luxury suite sales. Then you add the likelihood that the Maloofs, who own the Kings, prefer having the relatively small market of Sacramento all to themselves and you have plenty of hurdles to any possible expansion.

The biggest limiting factor though are the A's. Oakland is barely viable for them as is. If they thought riches lay inland, they could easily push for a stadium expansion in Sacramento and probably get it done. But they remain focused on San Jose. A feint to Sacramento would likely be a negotiating ploy, rather than a sincere desire to move to SacTown.

8 - Nashville, TN

Population: 1,231,311 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: Atlanta (250 miles), Cincinnati (275 miles), St. Louis (300 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Braves, Reds, Cardinals

Median Household Income: $44,223

Television information: Ranks 29th in 2009-10 DMA (1,019,010 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 44th (Metro 12+ population - 1,254,700)

Number of Major League Teams: 2 (NFL Titans, NHL Predators)

Interim/New Facility location: Greer Stadium (seating capacity – 10,300)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 410,437

Pros

Nashville is far enough away from other markets that it would preclude the battles that would plague other possible relocation areas like San Antonio, Sacramento and even Portland. That openness would allow a potential franchise to draw on surrounding areas such as Memphis, Knoxville, Birmingham, Huntsville, and Chattanooga for its fanbase. Corporate sponsorships with a number of Record Labels and entertainment industry firms that make up Music City's primary economic base are a mild positive as well.

Cons

The size of the Nashville market makes any consideration prohibitive. Tennessee has embraced the Titans, but with ten to thirteen games on the schedule in any given year, the trek to Nashville is more readily undertaken, especially on a weekend.

Also creating hassles and headaches is Greer Stadium itself. Despite numerous patches and renovations through the years, the Stadium is barely adequate for a AAA team, and would require a significant upgrade to house a big league club. In addition, the Stadium is far enough from downtown as to make it useless except as a stop gap, meaning a battle for stadium financing would follow.

7 - Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Population (2006): 1,854,442 (proper, ranks as 2nd largest city in Canada), Metropolitan area - 3,635,571

Distance to nearest MLB market: Boston (253 miles) , New York (329 miles), Philadelphia (388 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Blue Jays

Median Household Income: $47,500 (Canadian)

Television information: Second largest television market in Canada (DMA figure unavailable) (source Museum of Broadcast Communications)

Number of Major League Teams: 2 (NHL Canadians, CFL Alouettes)

Interim/New Facility location: Stade Olympique (seating capacity – 46.500)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 1,211,857

Pros

Montreal is the most significant North American market without a Major League Baseball team. The facilities are in place and while a major league franchise in Montreal would necessitate the construction of a baseball only facility. A winning franchise could build a fanbase quickly as was seen with the 1994 Expos team that was on its way to the postseason. The first place Expos drew a phenomenal 137,497 for a four game set with the Cardinals in the final four games played in Montreal during the 1994 season, which was more than three times the average attendance on the season.

Cons

There is truth to the saying you can't go home again. Montreal's lack of post-strike support might have been mitigated with a consistent commitment to winning. But the removal of the Expos in 2005 dooms any public subsidy for new facilities. What resilient fans endured the final decade of mediocre Expos baseball would need to be won back after a hiatus that is now up to six seasons.

The market is viable. But the 1994 strike was the death knell of baseball in Montreal. The NL East leading Expos were on their way to the club's second ever postseason appearance. Playoff revenues could have greatly assisted the ownership of the franchise allowing for them to retain their talent core a little longer. If big league baseball returns to Montreal it will be a labor of love from an owner with very deep pockets committed to making it work this time.

6 - San Antonio, TX.

Population: 1,592,383 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: Houston (197 miles). Arlington (278 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Astros, Rangers

Median Household Income: $39,140

Television information: Ranks 37th in 2009-10 DMA (830,000 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 31st (Metro 12+ population - 1,698,300)

Number of Major League Teams: 1 (NBA Spurs)

Interim/New Facility location: Wolff Stadium (seating capacity – 9,200)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 796,192

Pros

As discussed by Maury two years ago, the political environment is a serious positive for any bid to get big league baseball into south-central Texas. When the Marlins were flirting with other cities, San Antonio received a good long look because the local politicians were eager to make a deal happen. Heading the charge was Judge Nelson Wolff, for whom the current stadium is named. Wolff is a passionate baseball fan and with some forty years of political experience could marshal the favors necessary to woo a team to town.

Cons

San Antonio is a small market, but it is a capped market. Though Charlotte, NC has fewer people in its immediate vicinity, Charlotte benefits from a dearth of competing options in the region, where San Antonio must contend first with Houston and secondly with the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Secondly, Wolff Stadium is not a serious option for more than perhaps a season while a permanent home is constructed. Locating a new stadium outside the urban core of San Antonio would potentially attract customers from Austin. But drawing on fans from Austin would give the Rangers, as team President Nolan Ryan owns the Round Rock Express which is located next to Austin.

5 - Indianapolis, IN.

Population: 1,607,486 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: Cincinnati (110 miles), Chicago (181 miles), St Louis (245 miles), Detroit (280),Cleveland (316 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Reds, White Sox, Cubs, Indians, Reds, Tigers, Cardinals

Median Household Income: $45,548

Television information: Ranks 25th in 2009-10 DMA (1,119,760 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 39th (Metro 12+ population - 1,388,800)

Number of Major League Teams: 2 (NFL Colts, NBA Pacers also WNBA Fever)

Interim/New Facility location: Victory Field (seating capacity – 12,496, 15,596 with Standing Room Seats)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 535,829

Pros

A nearly big-league ready facility. Indianapolis is home to one of the nicest minor league ballparks in the nation, Victory Field. It has drawn rave reviews from visitors and like Raley Field in Sacramento offers a beautiful view of downtown Indianapolis. The stadium would be expandable either as a temporary measure or with a permanent reconstruction to provide a home to a big league ball club.

Indianapolis also has a healthy business community that could provide ample partnerships and corporate sponsorships, as well as gobbling up luxury suites. Indianapolis also has very good infrastructure, with a brand new airport to go with the sports complex surrounding Victory Field that includes Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse.

Cons

Any franchise located in Indianapolis would have no shortage of both in-city and regional competition. The Colts and Pacers would prove stiff competition for entertainment dollars. In addition, drawing from surrounding areas would prove problematic. Folks in Fort Wayne are more apt to head north to Detroit, as would the people of Peroria prefer the trip to Chicago. Without improved exclusivity, a franchise would struggle after the novelty wore off.

4 - Portland, OR

Population: 2,265,223 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: Seattle (200 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Mariners

Median Household Income: $46,090

Television information: Ranks 22nd in 2009-10 DMA (1,188,770 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 23rd (Metro 12+ population - 2,106,200)

Number of Major League Teams: 1 (NBA TRail Blazers)

Interim/New Facility location: PGE Park (seating capacity – 20,000)

(PGE Park will undergo significant renovations in 2010 and 2011 which will preclude its use for baseball as part of the deal brokered to bring a MSL franchise to Portland)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 1,563,282

Pros

Portland is second behind Montreal in terms of market size without a big league ballclub. To its benefit, Portland has none of the baggage of a past big league team. Nor does it have the currency and cultural barriers that inhibited Montreal in talent acquisition. The size of the market makes it an obvious candidate for expansion.

Sponsorship possibilities with Nike a natural partner for any franchise. In addition, adidas calls Portland its North American home. The combination of market size and economic partners made Portland very attractive when MLB was looking to move the Expos as well as when Marlins were hunting for a new home.

Cons

As alluded above, the stadium situation in Portland is now entirely prohibitive. Their exclusivity deal with the incoming MLS franchise for PGE Park has sent the Beavers packing, likely to end up in Lake Elsinore, CA, until a permanent home can be built closer to San Diego. The Beavers are the Padres AAA affiliate, so the move will serve the parent club's interest. But it still leaves Portland without baseball.

The other limiting factor is the claim the Mariners have on the market. Seattle draws significantly on Washingtonians along I-5 all the way to Portland for fans. Having conceded basketball to their southern neighbors, baseball would prompt a strong pushback.

3 - Metro NYC

Population: 21,199,865 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: New York (0 Miles), Philadelphia (95 miles) (

MLB Television Territories impacted: Yankees, Mets

Median Household Income: $50,795

Television information: Ranks 1st in 2009-10 DMA (7,493,530 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 1st (Metro 12+ population - 15,669,500)

Number of Major League Teams: 10 (11 including WNBA Liberty) (New Jersey Devils – NHL, New York Islanders – NHL, New York Rangers – NHL, MetroStars – MLS, New Jersey Nets – NBA, New York Knicks – NBA, New York Yankees – MLB, New York Mets – MLB, New York Jets – NFL, New York Giants – NFL)

Interim/New Facility location: Several to choose from including Richmond County Bank Ballpark on Staten Island with its views of downtown Manhattan, MCU Park in Brooklyn and Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium in Newark.

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 1,766,656

Pros

With two baseball teams, two football teams, two basketball teams and three hockey teams, one would think New York has enough professional franchises already. But sinking another team in the largest media market on the planet would prompt the briefest of hiccups to the Manhattan machine that markets everything. Put the team in Brooklyn or North Jersey or and they'd find fans fast enough.

In addition businesses, shut out by exclusive deals signed by their competitors with the Yankees and Mets, would line up to get in early on a new team in the Big Apple.

Cons

The Yankees. Baseball's most storied franchise would fight tooth and nail to prevent any additional interlopers on the city of their birthright. After marginalizing the Mets over the last decade, the Yankees are the undisputed kings of New York. Convincing the King to welcome a new Prince who has eyes on the crown to the castle would take a minor miracle.

A less pressing concern is where to play in the immediate. The three parks located in the immediate Metro Area are extremely small and in each case, expansion room comes with a premium price tag. Yes, the up front investment would be recovered eventually, but that initial outlay would be prohibitive.

2 - Charlotte, NC

Population: 1,499,293 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: Atlanta (224 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Nationals, Orioles, Braves

Median Household Income: $46,119

Television information: Ranks 24th in 2009-10 DMA (1,147,910 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 24th (Metro 12+ population - 2,008,600)

Number of Major League Teams: 2 (NFL Panthers, NBA Bobcats Also the WNBA Sting)

Interim/New Facility location: Knights Stadium (seating capacity – 10,002)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 499,764

Pros

Charlotte's deep pockets are attractive to sports franchises as the city is the second largest financial center in the US after New York City. Those moneyed interests provide plenty of options for teams even with two other big league teams sharing the city space.

In addition, Charlotte is growing. Based on census estimates, Charlotte more than doubled in residents from 1980 (315,474) to 2008 (687,456 est.) and shows signs of continued expansion. Without any competing MLB teams within a 175 mile radius, a Charlotte franchise could draw on the nearly five million residents of the surrounding metropolitan areas like Raleigh, Durham, and Greensbro in North Carolina as well as Columbia and Greenville in South Carolina.

Cons

MLB's deal to buy off Peter Angelos and allow the Nationals to land in DC is a significant hurdle to Charlotte's big league dreams. But as time passes, and Charlotte continues to grow, the dollar signs the League is losing out on will prevail upon them to buy Angelos off again.

Knights Stadium is getting old but the stadium was built to MLB specifications so that it could be quickly expanded to house a major league franchise. Plans have been discussed to build a new baseball stadium for the minor league team downtown and could be shifted easily enough to the construction of a stadium for a Major League Baseball team.

1 - San Jose, CA

Population: 7,239,362 (MSA)

Distance to nearest MLB market: San Francisco (50 miles), Oakland (40 miles)

MLB Television Territories impacted: Athletics, Giants

Median Household Income: $63,024

Television information: Ranks 6th in 2009-10 DMA (2,503,400 television households)

Radio Information: Arbitron ranking – 35th (Metro 12+ population - 1,521,300)

Number of Major League Teams: 6 (MLB Giants, MLB Athletics, NFL 49ers, NFL Raiders, NBA Warriors, NHL Sharks)

Interim/New Facility location: San Jose Municipal Stadium (seating capacity – 4,200)

Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 1,206,560 (this figures assumes the relocated franchise will be the Oakland Athletics)

Pros

The most obvious eventual home for the Oakland Athletics, San Jose is the ideal mix of fans and corporate interests. There is enough benefit for both the league and the club to make this deal a question of when, not if. Whether it is Cisco Field or some other iteration, Oakland's relocation into the South Bay is an inevitability.

Cons

The Giants have no interest in ceding the territory to their cross bay rivals. Some lucrative package will be provided to the team to gain their approval for a move. Stadium construction costs figure to be prohibitive necessitating some clever package of subsidies or outright municipal assumption of costs.

Conclusions

The safe conclusion remains that expansion is far off in the future and relocation an unlikely at best proposition. Charlotte is a stellar candidate for a franchise, eventually. But the league won't be expanding anytime in the next half-dozen years. If the league does choose to grow at some point between 2015 and 2025 the best choice to accompany Charlotte's inclusion is Portland. That leaves relocation possibilities in the interim.

The Oakland shift to San Jose is probable, but that just barely fits the definition of relocation. The Rays may want to look elsewhere, but with the Marlins stadium situation set, no city will feel a push to build a stadium in the way St. Petersburg did in the late 80s. Ironically, the lack of viable stadium options makes puts the Rays into a worse position with their current home than other teams had when Tampa and St. Pete were courting big league teams. The long term viability of Charlotte, easily the most attractive quick option after San Jose, will exert enough pressure on Tampa to work with the Rays toward developing a stadium that ensures the city keeps one of the best run franchises in the game right now. But as with every stadium construction effort, the political sands could shift at any point. And the recent rumblings again advocating limited government may trickle down to state executive branches and municipal councils. We remain locked at 30, and those 30 effectively locked in place.


Joe TetreaultJoe Tetreault is Managing Editor of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He can be contacted here through The Biz of Baseball

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