Edmonds: Prime locations for major sports leagues
Charlotte Edmonds | Friday, November 15, 2019
As sports become more and more entrenched with the business world, conversations will continue to arise about expanding markets and the changing demographic of sports fans. Whether it be through expansion or relocation, numerous cities have experienced rebirths through the welcoming of a major sports league. For the purpose of this Sports Authority, I’ll share my thoughts on potential professional sports market cities, focusing on basketball, football and soccer. While baseball and hockey certainly qualify as major sports, they’re facing other obstacles, notably interest and exposure, respectively, among American sports fans to address prior to expanding.
The NFL is already ahead of the curve, making moves in the Las Vegas market via relocation of the Oakland franchise next season. Considering how touristy Las Vegas is, and the incentive for visiting team’s fans to travel to Sin City, this will likely be a unique setup for the league to experiment with. Take the Golden Knights for example, who made the Stanley Cup their first year — sports are thriving in Vegas.
Next up, Orlando. Like Vegas, the 22nd-largest metro area is home to all things entertainment — NBA, Disney World and SeaWorld. San Diego and St. Louis are the only cities with larger populations without NFL football and both saw NFL teams recently relocated from. Why not give Orlando a chance?
Now, let’s cross the pond to discuss the reality of a different kind of football in London. I get it, this one’s a bit of a stretch, but the ground work is already there. The newly constructed Tottenham Football Stadium was designed specifically with the purpose of being able to host NFL football and recently hosted two games at the beginning of the season. I know the distance and time change can certainly complicate matters, but the NFL is arguably the only league that could even marginally support such a travel schedule, with games spaced out far enough apart and the presence of bye weeks.
It’s no secret that the NBA is always trying to expand its presence. They really do pride themselves as global brand, with a number of superstars hailing from outside the U.S. They’ve recently shifted their focus to other parts of the country, even finding themselves tangled up in the politics of the protests in Hong Kong.
That experience means they’re always prepared to expand. But where to?
This one pains me to admit, but perhaps Seattle. As a die-hard Thunder fan, I take personal offense to Supersonics fans’ bitterness, but also recognize the tragedy of their situation. They’ve watched their beloved team get stolen from them only to be heavyweights in the Western Conference in a way that Seattle hadn’t since Ray Allen’s prime. They nearly snagged the Sacramento Kings before the league effectively vetoed the sale of the Kings to a group that intended to move them to Seattle.
Now let’s look international. First, up north to Canada. The Raptors have taken off in Canada, and what better place to look than Vancouver? Home to the 2020 Winter Olympics, this metro area with a population of nearly 2.5 million is known for its diverse community, something the NBA seems to pride itself of and thrive in. And moving south — I feel strongly about this one — Mexico City. Although certainly pushing the bounds of travel time, it’s only a two-and-a-half hour flight from Houston, and still in Central Time. With a metro area of 21 million people, it’s hard to imagine the NBA not having a bigger presence there.
The MLS isn’t considered a major league by most people, but aspires to be one. Their recent approach of expanding to Miami, Nashville, St. Louis and Sacramento demonstrate their desire to hang with the big leagues. Why not use the model of the NBA in cities like OKC, Salt Lake, Memphis and Portland and allow soccer to be the only major game in town? For example, Albuquerque and El Paso would be nice targets. Both have a large population, no other major sports and a heavy Hispanic influence that would likely support soccer as a major sport.