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Old 10-13-2008, 11:46 PM   #1
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Default The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

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What do the Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Islanders and New Orleans Hornets all have in common?

Dreary stadiums they don’t own and stalling businesses eager to rake in more cash. In other words, they’re all ripe for a move. And that means city or state governments around the country can expect them to come calling for help financing a new venue.

Based on franchise valuations, revenue and attendance trends over the past few years, the most stagnant team businesses – those with the greatest likelihoods of hitting the road at some point – are those stuck in outdated arenas and stadiums. While market size drives local sponsorship deals and TV money, souped-up venues that drive revenue through high ticket prices, luxury suites and corporate packages are the order of the day. You don’t have that, you’re not in the game.

“The single biggest factor is ticket revenue, and a new venue is going to drive high-end ticket sales,” says Bernie Mullin, who runs the Atlanta-based Aspire Group, an industry consultant.

Not that many clubs are likely to pull up the stakes anytime soon. The tough economic environment should, at least in the short term, curtail the ability of sports franchises to play one market against another in search of a sweet stadium deal. The consumer appetite for muni bonds and taxpayer subsidies in support of sports venues may take awhile to bounce back.

“Owners may not be able to shop their franchises around as much for awhile,” says Shawn McBride, a vice president with Ketchum Sports Marketing.

But ultimately, these things have a way of coming back around. Desirable landing places for struggling teams, Mullin believes, include Las Vegas and Orange County, Calif., (which has the goods for a state-of-the-art facility and enough people for a strong fan base despite the plethora of teams up the road in Los Angeles). He also thinks Kansas City, Mo., despite its modest size, is ripe for an NHL or NBA club.

Other cities that experts expect to see in the market for new teams are Orlando, Fla., (already a secondary market for baseball’s Rays) and Austin, Texas.

For the NFL in particular, market size doesn’t much matter. How else to explain a thriving franchise in Green Bay, Wis., while Los Angeles sits empty? Almost any city can fill a 60,000-seat football stadium for eight home games a year, while league-controlled TV millions are doled out to all 32 teams equally. Yet the league has witnessed five franchise shifts since 1984.

For football owners in particular, the stadium deal is the big differentiator, and it’s the only thing a local owner can really control. Lure a city into subsidizing a stadium complete with luxury box riches and the lion’s share of revenues, and you’ve got yourself a more profitable place to play. That’s what spurred the profitable Los Angeles Rams to bolt for St. Louis in 1995 and the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore a year later.


Major League Baseball, a world of local TV deals and 81 annual games that make market size much more important, has had just one franchise move since 1970 – that being the excursion of the struggling Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C., three years ago.

If any club is going to break that spell, expect it to come from Florida, a seemingly natural baseball market that hasn’t lived up to expectations. Both the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays have been at or near the bottom of the league in attendance for a decade, thanks in part to the dreary stadiums they call home. Sports marketing experts call the Marlins’ Dolphin Stadium and the Rays’ Tropicana Field “major impediments” to success. Even a Rays World Series title this year, which is entirely possible, is unlikely to keep the franchise from bolting if voters don’t approve the team’s public-private offer for a new waterfront home in St. Petersburg.

Other struggling small-market franchises like the Kansas City Royals, who have extensively renovated Kauffman Stadium, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who got their dream playground, PNC Park, in 2001, don’t seem to be headed anywhere.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles sits open as the big vacuum for the NFL, a good thing for owners of the league’s struggling franchises. The economy may slow the flow of window shopping across state lines for awhile, but a potential jewel like L.A. always stands out.

“That’s the carrot that owners hold over their cities’ heads,” says McBride.

1. Florida Marlins MLB

Value: $256 million (30/30)
Value three years ago: $206 million (26/30)
Per-game attendance 2008: 16,688 (30/30)
Per-game attendance, three-year average: 18,800 (29/30)
Market size: 5.4 million (No. 7 nationally)

Baseball should be a natural in South Florida. It isn't. Despite a young, exciting team that unexpectedly contended this year, the Marlins can barely draw flies. Owner Jeff Loria must be questioning whether the state-of-the-art ballpark he's pining for will even make of a difference.

2. Tampa Bay Rays MLB

Value: $290 million (29/30)
Value three years ago: $176 million (30/30)
Per-game attendance 2008: 22,259 (26/30)
Per-game attendance, three-year average: 17,820 (28/30)
Market size: 2.7 million (No. 19 nationally)

As the Rays rocketed to first place this year, attendance rose too--all the way to 26th in the league from 29th. To replace the eyesore that is Tropicana Field, owner Stu Sternberg has proposed a public-private 34,000 seat stadium on the waterfront. If voters don't go for it, even a World Series championship is unlikely to save baseball in Tampa.

3. Buffalo Bills NFL

Value: $885 million (27/32)
Value three years ago: $708 million (25/32)
Market size: 1.1 million (No. 46 nationally)

The team's fortunes are growing at a slower pace than the rest of the league. Playing in outdated Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills are already hosting a handful of home games across Lake Ontario in Toronto. The spiffier Rogers Centre brings in more revenue; if Toronto comes dangling more goodies to lure the Bills full-time, Buffalo will have a hard time trying to win a money war.

4. Minnesota Vikings NFL

Value: $839 million (32/32)
Value three years ago: $658 million (32/32)
Market size: 3.2 million (No. 16 nationally)

Local taxpayers voted down a study last spring to look into public subsidies for a new stadium to replace the outdated Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (opened: 1982). That means the team will have to dig into its own pockets for a new venue--or possibly hit the road.

5. San Francisco 49ers NFL

Value: $865 million (30/32)
Value three years ago: $699 million (26/32)
Market size: 2.2 million (No. 12 nationally)

The Niners have dropped four spots in the valuations rankings since 2005. Revenues are second lowest in the league. If a new football stadium doesn't rise in the Bay Area to replace either San Francisco's Candlestick Park or Oakland's McAfee Stadium (both ancient by modern standard), one of the two teams will undoubtedly move. The Raiders' more passionate fan base makes them more likely to stay--though quirky owner Al Davis has already taken them to Los Angeles and back once.
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Old 10-13-2008, 11:49 PM   #2
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

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6. New York Islanders NHL

Value: $149 million (25/30)
Value three years ago: $160 million (12/30)
Per-game attendance 2008: 13,640 (30/30)
Per-game attendance, three-year average: 13,038 (26/30)
Market size: 18.8 million (No. 1 nationally).

The Islanders market size is a bit misleading, since sharing the New York stage with the Rangers and Devils keeps the fan base mostly limited to Long Island. And the passion of that fan base has taken a turn south since the club's glory years of the 1980s. The team desperately needs the amenity-filled new arena it's pushing for to draw the casual fans who aren't coming to plain old Nassau Coliseum. If it doesn't happen, a franchise that was once among the greatest ever (four straight Stanley Cups Cups from 1980 to 1983) could bite the dust.

7. Phoenix Coyotes NHL

Value: $147 million (27/30)
Value three years ago: $136 million (18/30)
Per-game attendance 2008: 14,820 (29/30)
Per-game attendance, three-year average: 15,130 (25/30)
Market size: 4.2 million (No. 13 nationally)

Despite the presence of the legendary Wayne Gretzky as a partner and head coach, hockey just doesn't score in the Valley of the Sun. Attendance has been consistently poor, and playing in municipally owned Jobing.com arena means relatively less revenue under the team's control. The club's original home, Winnipeg, might be a wise destination--a fresh start in a real hockey market.

8. Nashville Predators NHL

Value: $143 million (30/30)
Value three years ago: $111 million (24/30)
Per-game attendance 2008: 14,910 (27/30)
Per-game attendance, three-year average: 14,866 (24/30)
Market size: 1.5 million (No. 39 nationally)

Predators ownership went into the season armed with a contract clause with the Nashville officials stipulating they could leave town if the team didn't draw at least 14,000 fans per game to the city-owned Sommet Center. They wound up at just over 14,900 per game.

9. New Orleans Hornets NBA

Value: $272 million (27/30)
Value three years ago: $225 million (30/30)
Per-game attendance 2008: 14,181 (26/30)
Per-game attendance, three-year average: 16,726 (17/30)
Market size: 1 million (No. 51 nationally)

The franchise did better two seasons ago when they played most post-Katrina home games in Oklahoma City, but that market is now taken by the (former) Seattle Supersonics. New Orleans has lost about a third of its population since being ravaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, making its relationship with an NBA franchise tenuous.

10. Charlotte Bobcats NBA

Value: $287 million (25/30)
Value three years ago: $300 million (17/30)
Per-game attendance 2008: 14,717 (24/30)
Per-game attendance, three-year average: 15,211 (24/30)
Market size: 1.7 million (No. 35 nationally)

The Bobcats don't own their arena and have no naming rights deal. Attendance has lagged despite lots of ticket giveaways. And now Charlotte's banking community is hitting a rough patch. Las Vegas, anyone?

http://sports.yahoo.com/top/news?slu...yhoo&type=lgns
i didn't know it was that bad 4 the 49ers. And the Vikes have big fandom in Minnesota, yet they consider it as 1 of those "movable" teams. I still don't get it.
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Old 10-14-2008, 12:04 AM   #3
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

I could see San Fran moving, but not the others (even though mongel this is very interesting info) .

I say let them move, it's bound to happen sooner or later.

Kinda brings up the question, of more expansion teams.
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Old 10-14-2008, 12:19 AM   #4
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

I was listening to CBCs Hockey Night in Canada on Sirius and it appears Hamilton not Winnipeg is the sexiest city to acquire a NHL team possibly the Predators. There is just certain places hockey isnt gonna work and Arizona is one of em. As for the Bobcats it didnt work out for the Hornets what made the NBA think it would for an EXPANSION team????
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Old 10-14-2008, 12:26 AM   #5
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

I usually only follow baseball during the playoffs, but if the Rays do win the series are they still in danger? they seem to have a pretty good team imo. Anybody know the story behind this?

Bills always come up in this discussions. 49ers I doubt it
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Old 10-14-2008, 12:47 AM   #6
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

No mention of the Jagoffs? Hmmm...
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Old 10-14-2008, 08:32 AM   #7
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

I think when it comes to the Rays eventually even a amazing season like this one only takes ya so far. The support just dosent seem to be there. Could be the stadium could be the rations of Yankee fans in the area but it just dosent seem to be working.
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Old 10-14-2008, 11:11 AM   #8
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

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Originally Posted by SteelersMongol View Post
i didn't know it was that bad 4 the 49ers. And the Vikes have big fandom in Minnesota, yet they consider it as 1 of those "movable" teams. I still don't get it.
I believe it. The 49ers have an absolutely HORRIBLE stadium, plus its location has to be among the worst there is. It's in the middle of one of the worst ghettos in the state (the projects and crackhouses are literally right across the street), there's no public transportation at all, and despite the fact that you HAVE to drive to the game, it's mostly dirt lots that become mud for most of the fall and winter. It even costs $25 to park in the dirt lot; to get a reserved parking pass for the paved lot will run you $40 or $50. And the planning for traffic was piss-poor, so you have to add an extra 1-2 hours to your trip each way even though the stadium is maybe 5 miles outside of town. Literally, if you do not leave your house by 10 a.m., you will probably not get there in time for the game. And unless you leave early, you will also spend an hour or two after the game trying to go the mile and a half to the freeway; most of the time, you have to wait for the entire parking lot to empty. It's an all-day thing, except replace the tailgating with sitting in traffic.

Basically, the gameday experience for the fans is shit, plus the team has sucked for the better part of a decade, to the point where you know before the season that there's no hope. The incompetent owner further sucks the life out of it to the point where the fans really do not have much to get behind. You go to a game, you'll see literally 5 times as many people wearing jerseys for Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice as for any of the current players, and you'll see a lot more fans of the visiting team than at most other stadiums. There's just a sour attitude toward the team because it's bad football with no hope, and it's just not much fun to watch on TV or in person.
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Old 10-14-2008, 02:53 PM   #9
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

It wasn't that long ago when the Penguins used to be on that list.

I don't know what the deal is, but it seems that EVERYONE and their mother is moving. Greedy owners wanting too much? Incompetent city officials?

Pittsburgh has given the Pirates their new stadium, and the city is still waiting for them to do anything.
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Old 10-16-2008, 11:59 AM   #10
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Default Re: The 10 Sports Franchises Most Likely To Move

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It wasn't that long ago when the Penguins used to be on that list.

I don't know what the deal is, but it seems that EVERYONE and their mother is moving. Greedy owners wanting too much? Incompetent city officials?

Pittsburgh has given the Pirates their new stadium, and the city is still waiting for them to do anything.
For some reason, since the early 1990s, it's been "give me a new stadium or give me death."

I don't think people figured out until 20-25 years ago just how much more money there was to be made off of sporting events if they really made an effort to turn every part of the process into a show that you could charge extra for. If you look at the stadiums from the 1980s and earlier that are still standing, they're geared strictly toward handling the logistics of a big event, not toward creating more income by looking nice and having extra luxuries.

Personally, I prefer the experience at the older stadiums -- I like to know I'm at a ballpark, not an eco-friendly health spa. But if you have a choice between a high-end family or company who's going to pay $25 for parking, $50 for a seat, and $150 on food and souvenirs ... or a guy who takes the train to the game, drinks a few beers in the parking lot with his buddies and then goes to sit in the cheap seats, which one are you going to try to attract to see your team?

It doesn't even really matter that the first two groups aren't very good fans -- as long as all the other teams are doing this and bringing in piles of money, you have to do the same or you're at a disadvantage. I kind of liken it to the trend of building tract houses everywhere instead of actual neighborhoods -- nobody really likes it except the people who build it, but it's the easiest way to make money, so it gets done anyway.
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