Hardcore sports fans live and die with their team. And for college sports fans like us here at WCBN, we have the comfort of knowing that our team will play year in and year out. College teams will never leave town or fold.
Unfortunately, fans of professional sports do not get the same assurance; professional teams relocate all the time. Although not as common anymore as it was in the earlier years of professional sports, we've still had a number of teams relocate in just the last decade (Montreal Expos, Seattle Sonics, Atlanta Thrashers) with the NBA being the worst offender. And while losing a team is heartbreaking for a town that has supported their franchise through thick or thin (or in many cases, not supported), it is thrilling for a town that receives a brand new team. Relocation is never going away, with the Oakland A's, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Vikings and all hockey teams south of the Mason-Dixon line being the latest threats to move. So with that fact in mind, I give you the top relocation destinations for each big 4 sport, cities that deserve a team.
1. San Jose (Pop. 971,000) - Just south of the Bay Area, San Jose is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Situated in the extremely wealthy Silicon Valley, San Jose already strongly supports one pro team (the Sharks), and could easily support a neglected baseball team (say, the A's). The only issue with moving to San Jose is that the SF Giants hold territorial rights to the city. They would have to relinquish them to allow a team to move to San Jose.
2. Sacramento (Pop. (Metro Area) 2,000,000) - The capital of California, the Sacramento area has 2,000,000 people and will likely have no professional sports team once the NBA's Kings leave town in the next few years. Sacramento has many of the same advantages of San Jose, with the benefit of being completely unoccupied (no territorial rights here). A team coming here would be the only attraction in town, and could likely draw sell-out crowds night in and night out while playing in the perfect Central California weather.
3. Brooklyn, NY (Pop. 2,500,000) - The most populous borough of New York hasn't had a baseball team since the Dodgers left town in 1957/8. And more than that, they didn't have a professional sports team at all until the New Jersey Nets moved to Brooklyn this year. The Mets have tried to adopt Brooklynites (former Dodger fans) as part of their fan base, but its always been sloppy, and Brooklynites would flock to support their own team if they got one. New York supported 3 teams for nearly 60 years, and it could certainly do it again. The major issue of Brooklyn is that the Yankees and Mets would both have to approve a team relocating there, which they would almost certainly not do.
Other options: Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Indianapolis
1. Anaheim (Pop. (Metro Area) 3,000,000) - The biggest city in Orange County already hosts two professional sports teams (the Ducks and Angels), and could easily support a third. In fact, this was the stated destination of the Sacramento Kings in 2011 before they decided to stay in Sacramento at the last minute. A team could play in the Honda Center, the home of the Ducks, and draw all basketball fans from Orange County down to San Diego, who don't want to make the excruciating drive to Downtown LA for the Lakers or Clippers. Expect Anaheim to have a team within 5 years (probably less).
2. Seattle (Pop. 600,000) - Seattle had the Supersonics for nearly four decades. Despite solid fan support for most of their tenure, the Sonics were ripped out of town and shipped off to Oklahoma City in 2008 where they became the Thunder. Seattle already has a plan in place for a new arena that can support basketball and hockey, and a dedicated fan base. There's no doubt that Seattle will get a new Supersonics at some point.
3. Vancouver (Pop. (Metro Area) 2,300,000) - The Canadian city had the Grizzlies for a short five years (1996-2001), before losing them to relocation. But that team was poorly run from the start, and was gravely damaged by both the NBA lockout in 1998 (which decimated attendance), and a weak Canadian dollar (no longer an issue). With a second shot at a franchise and a new arena, Vancouver could support an NBA team at the 17,000 fans per game level they did in the first few years of the Grizzlies.
Other Options: Kansas City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh
Canadians love hockey; it's their national sport, and they will support the NHL teams given to them (example: the new Winnipeg Jets). That's why I propose these Canadian cities for relocation:
1. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (Pop. 720,000) - This city, a stone's throw from Toronto, has no pro teams beyond the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs (one of the most successful AHL franchises). They once turned out over 17,000 fans for an AHL playoff game; it seems clear that they could get that or more for an NHL regular season game, or 40 of them a year.
2. Quebec City, Quebec, Canada (Pop. 765,000) - Quebec City, former home of the Quebec Nordiques, has been without a franchise since 1995, when the hometown team packed their bags and moved to Colorado. Again, Canadian cities support their franchises, and the main reason that the Nordiques moved to Denver was due to financial difficulties of ownership rather than any lack of support. Quebec supported a team once, and could do it again.
3. Seattle (Pop. 600,000) - All right, so Seattle isn't in Canada. But it's damn close, and as noted above, Seattle is planning on building a state of the art basketball/hockey arena. They could use a team to put in that arena. A Seattle hockey team would also have a natural rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks (only a short drive away).
Other Options: Windsor, Toronto, Kansas City
1. Los Angeles (Pop. (Metro Area) 12,800,000) - Los Angeles has 13 million people. Los Angeles does not have an NFL team. Los Angeles has not had a team since 1994, when the Rams and Raiders inexplicably left at the same time for St. Louis and Oakland respectively. Nearly 20 years have passed, and LA remains team-less, having been used as an idle threat by every team hoping to negotiate a new stadium deal with their town (I'm looking at you, Vikings). The major roadblock to getting LA a football team has remained the lack of a modern football stadium. The Coliseum housed the Rams and Raiders, and was built for the Olympics. Not the 1984 Olympics mind you, but the 1932 Olympics. But in the past few years, two different legitimate stadium plans have materialized: one in Downtown LA (right next to the Staples Center, home of the Lakers/Clippers), and one in the Inland Empire in the city of Industry, about 30 miles Southeast of LA. Once a team agrees to move to LA (and follows the guidelines recently created by Roger Goodell), one of these stadiums will begin construction, and LA's 20 years of being an NFL free city will come to an end. As a native Angeleno, I say it can't come soon enough (I mean for goodness sake, Jacksonville has a team, and LA doesn't? The ongoing inability to get LA a team is nothing short of embarrassing. Okay, I'm done now.)
Other Options: None. Seriously. If another city gets a team before Los Angeles does, something is wrong with the NFL (or LA has been destroyed in some sort of 10.5 scenario, and been returned by earthquake to the Pacific Ocean from whence it came)
So that's it. The future homes of up to 10 professional teams across the 4 sports. When it happens, remember, you read it here first.
Also, totally unrelated, but I think the future LA football team should be called the Thunderbirds. That's a cool team name, right?