Expansion and Relocation Discussion, Part 1

One of my favorite topics, which I actually haven’t really discussed to this point, is the potential for either new expansion teams in the majors, or teams relocating to new markets. Having grown up in the Bay Area, I watched as the Giants nearly left for Tampa back in the early 1990s, and now as the Athletics appear poised to relocate either to San Jose, or possibly elsewhere even. As we have now seen the Expos move as well, it is clear that both are always a possibility. But what are the realistic chances for some of the markets out there?

Since division play started in 1969, MLB has expanded from 22 teams up to 30, adding teams in Milwaukee, Montreal/Washington, Toronto, Seattle, Phoenix, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Denver, and Miami.  According to Wikipedia, cities which placed bids during the most recent expansion, but were not selected, were:

  • Buffalo, NY
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Monterrey, Mexico
  • Nashville, TN
  • Northern Virginia
  • Orlando, FL
  • Vancouver, Canada

In my opinion, a city/metro area probably needs at least the following to have a reasonable chance of success in a market:

  1. Large population in the metro area – According to Wikipedia, MLB is in 25 of the top 40 largest metropolitan areas in the US. In Canada, MLB is in 1 of the top 3 largest metropolitan areas (only 3 are larger than the #40 in the US). As a result, any team placed in a market is going to need to be a decent size to draw fans’ revenue. I am not going to look into any of the cities in Latin America at this time, simply because I do not have the knowledge to speak about their viability due to differences in culture, economy, and language, among other things. So who does this criteria leave us with as at least possibilities?
  • Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA
  • Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Orlando, FL
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • San Jose, CA
  • Columbus, OH
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Austin, TX
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Providence, RI
  • Nashville, TN
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Vancouver, Canada

To this list, I am going to add a couple of markets that I think have at least a slight possibility of sustaining a MLB franchise:

  • Memphis, TN
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York City, NY

2. The next thing I would be looking for out of a market for a MLB franchise would be whether or not there has been a history of organized baseball. Here’s how the cities break down with regard to this:

Current Cities:

  • MLB: New York City
  • AAA: Sacramento, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Columbus, OH; Nashville, TN; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Indianapolis, IN; Charlotte, NC; Providence, RI (Pawtucket); Virginia Beach, VA (Norfolk); Austin, TX (Round Rock);
  • AA: San Antonio, TX; Jacksonville, FL
  • High-A: Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA (Lake Elsinore/Inland Empire/Rancho Cucamonga); San Jose, CA
  • Short Season: Vancouver, Canada
  • Rookie League: Orlando, FL (GCL Braves in Kissimmee)

Previous Cities:

  • MLB: Montreal, Canada
  • AAA: Portland, OR

There are more criteria that should be addressed to be sure, but I’m going to open it up to discussion here. What do you think about this list of sites, and is there somewhere that should be included on this list that I haven’t mentioned? Do you think some of these should be eliminated immediately? Leave some comments with your thoughts on what else a market should have in order to support a Major League franchise.


4 responses to “Expansion and Relocation Discussion, Part 1

  1. Jason, nice article. I think you bring up some interesting points about relocation and some interesting possibilities as far as potential locations. I think a few of them are much more feasible for one reason or another. The tricky thing about this, however, is the fact that I think it’s unlikely we see much movement anytime soon outside of the situation with the A’s and their public desire to move to San Jose.

    Tampa Bay obviously stands out as another current location that may need to look into this in the future. The fan base there clearly is not supporting the team like MLB had hoped and if such a trend continues there might need to be a move considered. One of the options you mentioned, Orlando, would be an interesting alternative when/if they do get to that point. The Orlando area has the population and attracts enough tourists that it could potentially be viable. Of course, we’d assume the same about Miami and look at how the Marlins attract fans. Let’s hope their new stadium makes a difference there.

    There was some brief talk last season about the Rays potentially moving to the Hartford, CT area but that was quickly shot down due to the fact that both New York teams and the Red Sox would have issues with another team entering “their market”. I think the same would prevent a team from ever considering the Providence market as well as it’s just too close to Boston.

    The problem with looking at Columbus, OH would be similar as both the Indians and Reds would have concerns. The same could potentially be said about Austin or San Antonio with the Rangers and Astros already in Texas. I know these concerns can sometimes be defeated through some creative financial compensation such as what MLB did for Peter Angelos in Baltimore when the Expos moved to Washington.

    Both Sacramento and Indianapolis could be interesting options. Both are major cities, have big populations, and could potentially draw a decent fan base with the right team. Indianapolis I know has one of the larger AAA stadiums now that draws well from what I understand. I think there are some who’d like to see MLB make another attempt in a Canadian city such as Vancouver but I think there would be some hesitation considering the failure in Montreal.

    • Thanks Aaron. I used to live in San Jose, and the city and team both could definitely benefit if they can get the A’s there. The Giants need to just give up their territorial rights already, as they were actually given to the Giants by the A’s back in the early 90’s. Having lived in the area, the thing that stands out is that the Giants aren’t going to all of a sudden start losing the diehard fans when a new team comes into the area. The problem seems to be more with the idea that they could start losing some of the Silicon Valley companies who buy some of the luxury suites, etc.

      I hadn’t heard about the Rays going to Hartford, and I would imagine that was a very quick non-starter.

      I’m not familiar with Indianapolis much, but I actually live in Sacramento now and am a season-ticket holder for the Rivercats. The stadium is nice, and I’m told it was built in such a way that it could be upgraded to a Major League capacity stadium fairly easily. The biggest problem with here right now though is that Sacramento’s economy is somewhere between 40-60% based on the state government and its’ offices. And with the budgetary process here being completely in the garbage can, there’s not a lot of hope for a change like that.

      The one city that I keep hearing come up is Portland, but I think it is telling of how the city views MLB with how they handled the AAA team that was there through this season. The city converted their stadium to a soccer-only stadium, and essentially told them to either build a new one on their own, or pack up and leave. Doesn’t bode well for MLB in there, which is too bad because it sounds like they may have been one of the best candidates available.

  2. Hey Jason, good article with some good insights. I would love to see a MLB team in Nashville. I live there and the fans do a great job of supporting the Titans and a decent job of supporting the Predators.

    We have a AAA team here, the Nashville Sounds, and there was a big debate a few years ago about building a new baseball stadium on the banks of the Cumberland river. It would have been awesome, but it fell through due to money issues. The current stadium is very old, a totally new park would have to be built in order to accomodate a MLB team.

    Everyone here is a Braves fan, which is great I love the Braves. Its a 3.5 hour drive to go to a game. I think the fans would definitely support the team. What are your thoughts?

    • I lived in Kentucky last year for about 3 months, and Nashville was the city we were closest to. The city is great, and I have no doubt that they could support a Major League team. That was of course the only challenge, being 3-5 hours away from a Major League team. They honestly seem like one of the most viable candidates of the group I listed.

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