Examining Potential MLB Expansion Cities, Part 2

San Jose is the most logical choice for MLB expansion. (via SanJose.gov)

San Jose is the most logical choice for MLB expansion. (via SanJose.gov)

Yesterday, I looked at what goes into success for current major league franchises — and what might determine what cities get consideration if and when Major League Baseball gives the green light to expansion. Today, let’s look at some of the cities identified in greater detail.

Applying the Findings to U.S. Cities with No Team

Yesterday, I took my best stab at divining the factors that shape attendance numbers. Now, let’s apply these findings to U.S. cities that don’t currently have a major league team. In theory, this will enable us to identify the cities that are best suited to draw a respectable number of fans if they added a team. I limited my analysis to cities with at least 1.5 million residents. This is slightly fewer than the 1.56 million living in Milwaukee, which is the least populous city to currently house a team. The unoccupied cities ranked thusly. I also included each city’s population, though as a reminder population isn’t accounted for in my model.

Possible Expansion Cities
Rank City Population
1 San Jose, Calif. 1.9 mllion
2 Las Vegas, Nev. 2.0 million
3 Austin, Tex. 1.8 million
4 Sacramento, Calif. 2.2 million
5 Providence, R.I. 1.6 million
6 Columbus, Ohio 1.9 million
7 Riverside, Calif. 4.3 million
8 Charlotte, N.C. 2.3 million
9 Portland, Ore. 2.3 million
10 Nashville, Tenn. 1.7 million
11 Orlando, Fla. 2.2 million
12 Virginia Beach, Va. 1.7 million
13 San Antonio, Tex. 2.2 million
14 Indianapolis, Ind. 1.9 million
15 San Juan, P.R. 2.3 million

Now, let’s dive a little deeper. Below, I examine the five U.S. cities that grade out best according to my model, and five more that grade out surprisingly poorly. In addition to interpreting my model’s output, I also look at the attendance figures for each city’s minor league team. To be clear, minor league attendance data had nothing to do with my model, but I think it’s useful as a second opinion. If a city draws well in the minors, you’d probably expect it to perform similarly in the majors.

1) San Jose

Sitting atop the list is San Francisco’s neighbor to the south. Major league baseball in San Jose isn’t a novel idea;  the Oakland A’s have been considering a move to the capital of Silicon Valley for some time now. But up until now, they’ve been blocked by the San Francisco Giants, who have territorial rights over Santa Clara County.

The legal barriers associated with putting a team in San Jose go well beyond the scope of my model (and my expertise), but demographically, San Jose checks most of the boxes associated with strong attendance numbers. Its residents have high incomes, there are few black residents (just three percent of San Jose’s total population), more than half of its population is male (50.3 percent compared to an average of 48.9 percent in big cities), and it has just the right age demographic: A high median age, but not a ton of people 65 or older.

San Jose looks great, but it’s not without flaw. For one, its population is highly educated — a whopping 46 percent of its population over the age of 25 has at least a bachelor’s degree. It’s also not particularly warm in San Jose, even in the summer. Still, the city has more than enough going for it to make up for these deficiencies.

A move to San Jose would make sense logistically as well. Situated less than 50 miles from Oakland, San Jose is close enough for the A’s to retain a portion of their current fan base, but far enough away that they’d no longer have to share a metropolis with the Giants. (Oakland is part of the San Francisco MSA.)

The San Francisco Giants’ High-A affiliate is in San Jose, aptly named the Giants. They’ve had the second-highest average attendance in the California League for each of the last four years, trailing only the Lake Elsinore Storm (located in the Riverside MSA). The S.J. Giants’ strong attendance figures only strengthen San Jose’s case as an ideal baseball city.

2) Las Vegas

Las Vegas’ biggest advantage is its large male population. Males account for 48.9 percent of the population in large cities, but make up 50.3 percent of Las Vegas residents. This may not seem like a huge deal until you compare it to other cities: Vegas’ male population is the highest among the 52 U.S. cities with at least a million residents. Vegas’ warm climate also makes it an enticing destination for a team. Located on the floor of the Mojave Desert, Vegas boasts temperatures that are higher than any major city that’s devoid of a big league franchise.

Las Vegas looks like good baseball city on paper, but the attendance figures for the Las Vegas 51s — the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate — haven’t been pretty. With just 4,640 fans per game, they ranked last in the Pacific Coast League for average attendance last year, and weren’t much better in prior years. Things might be different for a big league team, but it’s also possible that there’s just too much else going on in Vegas for baseball to get much play.

3) Austin

With the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers (the latter located near Dallas), Texas is already home to two major league clubs. However, Texas is a large state. It’s the second-largest in the nation both in terms of population and land mass. This, along with the Astros’ and Rangers’ healthy attendance numbers, suggest there’s plenty of room for a third team in Texas.

Demographically, Austin looks good. For one, its population is male-dominated. It joins San Jose and Las Vegas as the only major cities without a major league team where more than half of the population is male. Austin also has relatively few residents older than 65.

Perhaps most importantly, Austin is home to a lot of high earners. Aside from San Jose, its incomes are markedly higher than each of the other cities considered. Austin’s economy is not only strong, but is also on the upswing. Its Gross Domestic Product per capita grew faster than any other major U.S. city last year, according to the Brookings Institute. Given its large male population, burgeoning economy, lack of old-timers and warm climate, Austin looks like an excellent landing spot for a big league club.

Austin has also proven its worth through the popularity of its minor league team, the Round Rock Express. The Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate has had either the highest or second-highest average attendance in the Pacific Coast League in each of the last eight years, rivaled only by the Sacramento River Cats. Speaking of which…

4) Sacramento

Sacramento is a ways behind its top-ranking neighbor San Jose, but still appears to have what it takes to support a major league team. Economically, Sacramento boasts high incomes and low levels of poverty, both of which bode well for a city’s ability to support a big league club. Additionally, Sacramento’s population is predominantly white and non-Hispanic — just seven percent of its population identifies as black, and 20 percent identifies as Hispanic. Throw in its warm climate, and there’s a lot to like about Sacramento.

There are also non-theoretical data to support the city’s case. The Giants’ Triple-A affiliate — the Sacramento River Cats — currently occupy Sacramento, and have boasted the highest average attendance in the Pacific Coast League in eight of the last 10 years, including 2013 and 2014.

Sacramento’s demographics look good, but my model doesn’t know that it’s less than 100 miles east of San Francisco, which already has two big league teams. And judging by the A’s attendance figures, Northern California might already be overbooked with the teams it has.

Adding a sixth California team in Sacramento may not be feasible, but moving a current California team there might be. If things don’t end up working out between the A’s and San Jose, Sacramento seems like a solid fallback option. The A’s don’t seem particularly interested in fleeing the Bay Area for Sacramento, but that could easily change if MLB continues to block them from moving to San Jose.

5) Providence

Providence’s appearance on this list seems a little fishy considering it hasn’t hosted a major sports team in over 60 years: The Providence Steamrollers of the NBA left Rhode Island back in 1949. But demographically, Providence looks an awful lot like a baseball town.

In terms of age, Providence’s population looks good. Its median age of 39.8 ranks highest among major U.S. cities that don’t have a team. This inevitably means it also has a large swath of people older than 65, but it doesn’t have nearly as many as cities like Tampa, Miami and Pittsburgh. Providence also features a mostly white, non-Hispanic population. Just five percent of its population identifies as black, and only 11 percent as Hispanic.

Providence looks good according to my model, but my model’s also blind to Providence’s close proximity to Boston, which certainly adds a layer of complexity. The Red Sox would obviously fight to block a second team from coming to New England. Still, given how well the Red Sox draw, it’s not ridiculous to think New England might be able to accommodate another team.

However, the attendance numbers from the Pawtucket Red Sox suggest otherwise. Although they’re affiliated with a team that’s immensely popular in the region, the Paw Sox have put up middling attendance numbers in the International League the last few years. Of course, with the PawSox moving to Providence that could change, but then again the Red Sox owners now have a stake in the PawSox, making it all the more likely they would fight major league expansion there. Major league baseball in Rhode Island still looks like a long shot.

8) Charlotte

Charlotte is a name that comes up pretty often in discussions of new major league cities. Charlotte doesn’t do terribly per my model, but there a few reasons to doubt its viability as a major league city. Most notably, it has a black- and female-heavy population, which doesn’t jibe with the typical baseball fan.

Charlotte doesn’t have many weaknesses aside from these two drawbacks, but still ranks pretty low due to its absence of strengths. Its income and education demographics are middle-of-the-road, and it’s significantly colder than cities like Las Vegas and Austin. It also doesn’t help that Charlotte has an NFL team (the Carolina Panthers) that would likely snatch some potential fans away.

Charlotte does have a couple of things going for it. With 2.3 million residents, it is the 24th-largest city in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and the third-largest that’s without a big league team. Charlotte also has the perfect age demographic for supporting a big league team: An older population, but few people older than 65. Baseball in Charlotte wouldn’t be a crazy idea, but there are other cities that seem like more viable destinations.

The Charlotte Knights — the White Sox Triple-A affiliate — have a very unusual attendance history. They ranked near the bottom of the International League in average attendance from 2005 through 2013, before randomly leading the league in attendance last season. The improvement was nice, but it also may have had everything to do with their new ballpark. The jury is still out, but odds are the attendance spike isn’t sustainable.

9) Portland, Ore.

Portland is another city that gets a lot of play during expansion talks, and the city appears more than willing to take on a team. However, based on the available data, it isn’t clear that things would work out in Portland.

Portland does have a few things going for it. Like Charlotte, its age demographic is ideal. It also has few black and Hispanic residents, which bodes well for the city’s attendance figures. However, the city rates no better than average in every other category, with its cold climate acting as its biggest detractor.

After a few years of no affiliated baseball in Portland, the Hillsboro Hops — the Diamondbacks’ short-season A-ball affiliate — brought baseball back to Portland in 2013. In terms of average attendance, the Hops ranked third out of the eight teams in the Northwest League in both years of their existence.

10) Nashville

Unsurprisingly, Nashville looks a lot like Charlotte, which means Nashville also doesn’t look particularly well suited to host a major league team. Like its southern counterpart, Nashville is dinged for its female-heavy population, and doesn’t grade out particularly well anywhere else. The presence of an NFL team (the Tennessee Titans) also doesn’t help matters.

The Nashville Sounds, the Triple-A affiliate for the Oakland A’s, haven’t had much luck in getting fans into their ballpark. They’ve ranked in the bottom half of the Pacific Coast League in average attendance for each of the last 10 years.

13) San Antonio

Austin rated as one of the best locales for a new big league team, but San Antonio — its nearby neighbor to the southwest — ranks near the bottom. Although Austin and San Antonio are less than 80 miles apart, they are two different cities. Most notably, San Antonio’s economy pales in comparison to Austin’s. San Antonio has 400,000 more people, yet its economy is $8 billion smaller. This is largely because Austin’s economy is more skewed towards finance, insurance, real estate and business services — all industries that pay high wages.

The two cities look much different demographically as well. Compared to Austin, San Antonio has fewer males (49.2 percent vs. 50.1 percent), more people 65 or older (11 percent vs. 8 percent) and significantly more Hispanic residents (32 percent vs. 54 percent). Frankly, San Antonio looks nothing like a city that would attract baseball fans to the ballpark.

Given the data outlined above, it’s no surprise that the San Antonio Missions — the Double-A affiliate for the San Diego Padres — have had dismal attendance numbers year after year. Their average attendance has been the worst in the Texas League in each of the last five years.

15) San Juan, PR

At first glance, major league baseball in Puerto Rico sounds like a great idea. Adding a team there would cause a significant bump in international exposure. And San Juan — Puerto Rico’s capital — is a bustling metropolis with a population greater than four of the 25 American with big league teams.

But there are a plethora of reasons why it just wouldn’t work. The most glaring is Puerto Rico’s large Hispanic population. Cities with a lot of Hispanic residents tend to have lower attendance numbers, and with 99 percent of its population identifying as Hispanic, San Juan is off the charts. In fairness, San Juan’s Hispanic percentage is significantly higher than any of the cities that went into building my model, so San Juan may not be getting a fair shake. But even if I set its Hispanic percentage to the big city average of 23 percent, San Juan’s projected attendance still ranks last among large cities without big league baseball.

Even ignoring San Juan’s ethnicity demographic, there’s still plenty of reason to think baseball in Puerto Rico. Chiefly, it’s not clear that San Juan’s economy would be able to support a big league team. Every city that currently houses a team has a median family income that’s at least double San Juan’s $26,000 mark. Disposable incomes in San Juan are just crazy low compared to those in the U.S. As if that weren’t enough, San Juan’s population is also female-dominated — 47.5 percent of San Juan’s population is male.

What about the cities that are already occupied?

We don’t need a statistical model to tell us New York, Los Angeles and Chicago can support a major league team. Each already fits two comfortably. But might one of these three mega-cities be able to accommodate a third? Unfortunately, my model can’t really weigh in since it was built for MSA-level analysis. But based purely on population, the answer is a resounding yes.

While all three of these cities have twice as many teams as any other, New York and L.A. both have significantly more than twice as many people. By the yardstick of people per franchise, New York is eons above the rest, and L.A. is near the top of the list. Single-team cities Dallas and Philadelphia also rank high on this list, and the Rangers’ and Phillies’ attendance numbers suggest these cities might be under-booked with just one team each (let’s not forget that Philly actually did house two teams for more than 50 years.


It’s obviously not that simple. In each of these cities, the current teams have been established for years, which might make it challenging for a new team to penetrate the market. For instance, to be successful, a third New York team would need to find a way to lure Yankees and Mets fans away from their respective clubs. Still, with a population that’s pushing 20 million, its hard to think the New York region couldn’t accommodate a third team — perhaps in Brooklyn or Northern New Jersey.

However, it might be in baseball’s best interest to expand into new areas, rather adding another team in a densely populated city. Attendance numbers aside, MLB would undoubtedly benefit from the ability to promote its brand to people in untapped pockets of the country. Or perhaps outside of it.

International Cities

Up to this point, I’ve limited my analysis to cities located in the U.S. (and Puerto Rico). But let’s now broaden our horizon. Expanding into new international markets is certainly a feasible proposition for MLB, and new commissioner Rob Manfred appears to be gung-ho for the idea.

There has not been a lot of talk about expansion,” Manfred said. “In terms of internationalizing the game, North America, in terms of sustained international activity, is someplace we need to focus. Canada, Mexico, if we were going to think about it, those would be the kinds of places that I would be interested in.”

With the markets MLB would consider in North America, would it seem as if the best available markets are not U.S. markets?

“I think that is probably right,” Manfred said.

Based on that, it seems that — if Manfred had his way — the next expansion would include at least one team in an international market. This doesn’t necessarily mean things will go down this way, but at the very least, he’s very open to the idea of adding a second team outside of U.S. borders.

My model was built using U.S. Census data, which obviously isn’t available for locales outside of the U.S. But even if I can’t directly apply my model to foreign cities, I can still evaluate these cities using the lessons gleaned from the data. I’ll start in Canada and work my way south.


Canada has three cities with populations that might be considered large enough to support a major league team: Toronto (six million people), Montreal (four million) and Vancouver (two and a half million). Economically, Toronto is head and shoulders above the rest. The Greater Toronto region has a GDP of $276 billion — larger than Montreal and Vancouver combined. This isn’t merely an instance of sheer population size, either, as Toronto’s per capita GDP is significantly higher than its Canadian competitors as well. It also has a substantially younger population, both in terms of median age and share of population over 65. All in all, it’s not particularly surprising that the Toronto Blue Jays have consistently put up respectable attendance figures over the years.

Toronto was clearly the pick of the litter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Montreal and Vancouver couldn’t also be good landing spots. Montreal seems to be the obvious choice due to its large population, but if we’ve learned anything from baseball’s Florida teams (and the Montreal Expos), it’s that it takes more than a large population to get butts in the seats.

A city’s population demographics also play a role, and Vancouver looks pretty good in that regard. Vancouver edges Montreal in per capita GDP, unemployment rate, share of population that’s male, and age demographic. Vancouver has a higher median age than Montreal, but has a lower share of its population older than 65: Just the right mix to drive attendance figures.

Whenever the topic of international expansion comes up, most look to Montreal, but Vancouver should also receive consideration. Although Montreal has the population advantage and the warmer weather, Vancouver looks better demographically, and it’s not particularly close. Plus, although Montreal was a baseball city not long ago, it wasn’t a good baseball city, at least not by the barometer of attendance. Perhaps Vancouver would fare better. Whether the Seattle Mariners would (or could) put the kibosh on baseball in Vancouver is a whole other can of worms, but the data suggest baseball in Vancouver has a chance.

For what it’s worth, the Vancouver Canadians — the Blue Jays’ Low-A affiliate — have had the second-highest attendance in the Northwest League in nine of the last 10 years. Only the Spokane Indians (out of Spokane, Wash.) have managed to outdraw Vancouver.


If MLB decides to expand into Mexico, it would almost certainly start with Mexico’s largest city: Mexico City. With 21 million people, Mexico City is the ninth-most populous city in the world. However, relative to its population size, Mexico City’s economy is actually quite small. Mexico City ranks just 251st in the world in terms of GDP per capita. It essentially has New York City’s population, but has an economy the size of Dallas. The average person in Mexico City makes far less than the average American, which means they also have less money to spend on going to baseball games. Even so, given its insanely large pool of residents, you have to figure a team in Mexico City would do OK.

Mexico’s second and third largest cities — Guadalajara and Monterrey — face the same problem Mexico City does. While both cities are fairly large — each has more than four million residents — their per capita GDPs rank 259th and 204th in the world respectively according to Brookings. Their raw GDP numbers fall in line with Milwaukee and Kansas City, which happen to be the smallest cities to currently house a major league team. If there are doubts about Mexico City, those doubts amplify tenfold for Guadalaraja and Monterrey. Both share Mexico City’s low income demographic, and also have less than a quarter of Mexico City’s population.

As a developing country, Mexico’s incomes fall well short of those found in domestic cities. It’s reasonable to think the sheer number of people living in Mexico City might be enough to support a team, but expansion into Mexico would likely have to end there. Simply put, no other Mexican city has enough disposable income swirling around to generate even passable attendance numbers. Incomes in Mexico are just far too low.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Publicly available demographic data for Santo Domingo are pretty hard to come by, but even if they were readily available, they probably wouldn’t be much help. Santo Domingo’s population looks significantly different from most U.S. cities, so it’s doubtful my model would be helpful in this scenario. The most striking difference has to do with age demographics. People don’t live nearly as long in the Dominican as they do in the U.S. The median age in the Dominican is a shockingly low 25 years old, compared to 38 in the U.S.

Like Mexico, the Dominican Republic is a developing country, which puts its incomes and standards of living well below those found in the U.S. In fact, the Dominican is actually even worse off than Mexico. Per the World Bank, the average income in the D.R. is about $6,000 compared to Mexico’s $10,000.

Santo Domingo has some redeeming factors. With 3.7 million residents, its population is larger than 12 cities that currently host a big league club. Additionally, the Dominican has long been a baseball hotbed. A total of 618 Dominican-born players have played in the majors, including 143 who played in 2014. Nonetheless, it’s just hard to get past those modest incomes. With so little money on the island, it’s hard to envision a major league franchise generating enough attendance revenue to stay afloat.

Havana, Cuba

Havana is the real wild card of the bunch. Cuba has been in a state of political turmoil for years, which makes adding a team there a dicey proposition to say the least. Although President Barack Obama has taken steps to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the situation will be like in five or 10 years, or however long it would take to bring major league baseball to Cuba. Word on the street is that Havana will host an exhibition game or two next spring. This would undoubtedly be a great first step in expanding MLB’s presence in Cuba, but it’s still a far cry from having a big league team stationed there.

Political issues aside, Havana’s economy is likely far too small to host a big league team. With 2.1 million people, its population is smaller than 22 of the 25 cities with big league teams, and its incomes are far lower. Just like in Santo Domingo, there’s just not a huge income base from which to draw.

This aim of this analysis was to identify the cities that would be best suited to support a major league team by the barometer of attendance. However, maximizing attendance shouldn’t be the only goal in MLB’s future expansion plans. For instance, dropping a team in Charlotte — a city where 22 percent of the population identifies as black — might not yield the best attendance figures, but it would bring baseball into a new market.

That market may not look like baseball’s current fan base, but that’s far from a bad thing, and certainly doesn’t mean Charlotte is unworthy of a big league team. Sure, baseball’s viewership largely consists of old, white men, but this shouldn’t be viewed as an immutable truth. Perhaps adding a team in Charlotte would bump major league’s black viewership from nine percent to 12 percent, which might be enough to make such a move worthwhile.

Take this analysis for what it is: An objective exploration of the factors that drive major league attendance. As with any predictive model, it shouldn’t be treated as gospel. Nor should it be used as a stand-alone to make normative judgments about where baseball should or shouldn’t expand. Nonetheless, I think this exercise uncovered some interesting — even if unsurprising — truths about baseball’s fan base. I hope these findings will make it easier to objectively evaluate location decisions whenever the topic of expansion or relocation comes up in the future.

References and Resources

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.
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9 years ago

You’re an idiot just following your little mathematical models wherever they take you. Why don’t you consider Brooklyn? Just because it’s in the same arbitrary MSA as the Yankees and the Mets? You can’t possibly think it makes sense to put a third team in the SF area before you put a third team in NYC. Can you?

9 years ago
Reply to  JG

It’s really too bad that he didn’t include a section titled “What about the cities that are already occupied” in which he could investigate adding teams to those areas… oh wait, he did.

9 years ago
Reply to  JG

What an unnecessarily hateful response. Also, it’s “you’re” –> “you’re an idiot.”

Enemy of the State
9 years ago
Reply to  JG

Statistical analysis will get us nowhere, JG’s intuition will guide us. He is a human divining rod of where baseball teams are needed.

9 years ago

attendance isn’t broken down into white/african american/hispanic, but it would be interesting to know what percentage of each attend games compared to the general population. LA, NY, Miami, Houton, etc. have relative high number of hispanic residents: do they not go to games or is it a significant percentage? Or does it depend on what national origin people are. Do Puerto Ricans or Dominicans like baseball better than others because so many players come from those places?

Well-Beered Englishman
9 years ago
Reply to  bob

Anecdotally, in my many visits to the Astros at Minute Maid, probably 70% of attendees are big white guys and their blonde girlfriends. The predominant minority at Astros games, and again this is just based on my experience and not any official numbers or truths, seems to be blacks.

I could be way off-base. But I do think Astros attendees are disproportionately white.

Dylan L
9 years ago


9 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mitchell

How does Indianapolis do with their Triple A attendance? I would purchase a 25 game package all the way here in Central Illinois if they got a team!!

9 years ago

That’s an interesting article. Indianapolis always appears on lists like this, based on city population and other demographics. The Triple-A Indianapolis Indians are near the top of the International League in attendance every year, and have been since Victory Field opened in 1996. The city has teams in the NFL and the NBA.

I’m not sure how well a MLB team would be supported in Indiana. Indianapolis might qualify on the list due to population at 1.9 million, but the entire state has a population of only 6.5 million. You mentioned the challenge a new team would face in New York with a population of 20 million, that problem might be insurmountable in Indiana. Roughly speaking, the northern half of the state is Cubs country, the mid-eastern and southeastern part of the state roots for the Reds, while a smaller bit of southwestern Indiana pulls for the Cardinals. The proximity of Indianapolis to Cincinnati (about 2 hours down I-74) and the loyalty of Cubs fans would make for great rivalries, but I think a new team would struggle to win fans, especially considering it probably wouldn’t be very good for awhile.

On a personal note, I hope MLB never comes to Indianapolis. Right now I can afford to attend as many Indianapolis Indians games as I want (this year box seats were increased to $16) and the crowds are manageable (Victory Field seats 15,000+ and the Indians average almost 9,000 per game). It’s high-quality baseball, we get to see prospects in the making, former MLB stars, and the occasional big leaguer on rehab. The promotions are hilarious, it’s great entertainment all around. If we get a Major League team, suddenly I’m down to a handful of games a year, if that, the nightmare that is a 40,000-strong crowd (assuming it would draw that many to begin with) and they’ll probably black out the TV broadcast. No thanks.

Juan Pardell
8 years ago
Reply to  Tony

The A’s are missing a golden opportunity in Sacramento. Should they move there, the franchise would be the dominant market team for approximately six counties where the estimated population is 5 million. The land costs are far less expensive than in the Bay Area, and there are nearby freeways with additional transportation modes for attending baseball games. As stated, the Minor League Sacramento River Cats are one of the highest draws in AAA baseball. Thus, I believe not only can Sacramento accommodate the A’s baseball team, but I can see the Raiders looking towards that region as well.

9 years ago

JG, it’s always helpful to initiate a conversation with “You’re an idiot…” Thanks for maintaining a civil discourse.

9 years ago

I think it would be useful to see, based on your statistical model, which cities that currently host a MLB team are least qualified to do so. Tampa Bay and Miami are the standard whipping boys for attendance issues, but are there more factors in play? Cleveland also has not been drawing well for well over a decade at this point. Is the economy in Cleveland so bad that Indians fans are not attending games anymore? I think seeing such figures would be at least be interesting, especially if compared to the list of cities cited above.

9 years ago
Reply to  Phillies113

As a lifelong Clevelander, I got this one. Plain and simple: Cleveland is a football town, and NOT a baseball town. This city goes nuts over the Browns, who have been pathetic since 1999, but will not support the Indians. (Case in point: current local sports headlines are on Johnny Manziel and what QB the Browns may draft, even though SI (oh no) picks them to win the Series.) The Browns can do no wrong in this town, but residents are bitter at their perception that the Dolans are “cheap” and will not pay for free agents (never mind huge extensions to Sizemore and Hafner BEFORE THEY GOT HURT, or Swisher and Bourn and Kerry Wood, etc etc).

Cleveland’s economy is not bad, the “fans'” attitudes are. Gabe Paul famously called Cleveland a “sleeping giant” (build a good team and they will come out in droves). Yeah well, that’s the very definition of a fair-weather fan. The Indians had the 2nd best win/loss pct. in AL pre-expansion history (1901-60), and Hank Greenberg was desperate to move the team to Minneapolis in 1957. What does that tell you? Many other cities have lost teams for less reason than if we lost ours, but by some miracle here the Indians remain.

Every time I see an article on possible MLB expansion team, I always post “hey, you want a team? The Indians are available.” And what do you know, here we are….

9 years ago
Reply to  scott

Thanks for the reply! I did not know that stat regarding the pre-expansion Indians. That’s really interesting! It’s a shame the city doesn’t support the team more. I think people are hesitant to include the Indians as a potential relocation candidate because they’re an original team and, more importantly, they’ve been firmly entrenched in one city for a long time. And after what happened to the Browns, it’d be cruel to do that to Cleveland again. I don’t know.

9 years ago
Reply to  scott

I don’t want this to happen since I’ve been an Indians fan for over 2 decades, but I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a strong push to have them moved. The attendance numbers plus the fact that they have an offensive name and logo (to some: there were protesters at the home opener last weekend) make me think that it would be a good opportunity for someone to kill two birds with one stone. Hopefully it doesn’t happen, but regardless of their play on the field it seems like people aren’t going to go, with the exception of a period where the Browns were either gone or had just returned.

9 years ago
Reply to  scott

Um … didn’t the Indians have a five or six year sellout streak in the not too distant past? I’m just askin’, my memory’s not that great.

Chris Mitchell
9 years ago
Reply to  Phillies113

That’s good idea. Might do a follow-up piece on exactly that.

John DiFool
9 years ago

One aspect left out of the article is how many other potential (unclaimed) fans lie within half a day’s drive of the (putative) ballfield. Las Vegas would do very poorly on that measure, because there’s little but desert outside its metropolitan borders. This variable would also significantly affect broadcasting dollars, which also means that intruding on another team’s markets is more than simply a case of being too close for (emotional) comfort.

Charlotte on the other hand would do very well on that score, since they have several other metropolises within fairly easy driving distances-Columbia, Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham, none of which have any ML teams. This isn’t the case with Indianapolis and several of the other candidates (Cincinnati is only 112 miles away).

9 years ago
Reply to  John DiFool

I wondered about this too, and it suggests another thing to try to do a correlation analysis on: mean (or maybe median, which may be more informative) travel time required for a fan in the extended metro area to get to the ballpark. Doing that analysis would take some real work, because of the need to consider both driving time and public transportation, but I suspect there would be interesting findings. That said, you can find correlations anywhere with anything if you look hard enough. But correlation does not imply causation.

9 years ago
Reply to  Bill

I agree with travel time, and broadcast rights as important concepts. I would add that the time zone could help with media rights

Outside of Denver, and now Phoenix, there is a huge hole in the sports zone between the west coast and then Texas. Any Texas or Houston fan can tell of the “joy” of watching a late night game on the west coast. This could help both on the media rights but also better division alignment with reduced travel.

The Texas cities are far too east to fit comfortably with the west coast. yet they are also too far west for the central divisions.

I think Austin works well for all the right reasons. Yet, there are some smaller cities where fans that would flock because there is nothing else. Salt Lake City is the largest with a NBA franchise,. Smaller cities include Abuquerque, and El Paso areas. These are also fast GROWING areas for the future.

Chris Mitchell
9 years ago
Reply to  John DiFool

Very true. Hoping to look into this in the future, but as you mention, it’s a little tricky to quantify.

9 years ago

It’s hard to understate how poor Charlotte’s AAA stadium was prior to the new uptown stadium being opened last year.

It had actually been located over the border in Rock Hill, SC. About a 15 minute drive from uptown Charlotte, but literally in the middle of nowhere. For a stadium built in 1990, I also couldn’t believe how outdated/dilapidated it looked. If you had told me it had been built in 1970, I would’ve never doubted it.

I’m sure the first year spike in attendence from moving to the new stadium won’t last forever, but I would expect attendence to stay near the top of the IL for the foreseeable future.

9 years ago
Reply to  Bob

You have to figure the rush-hour traffic from uptown Charlotte down I-77 was a big hindrance for weekday attendance, and pretty much eliminated fans from the northern half of the Charlotte metro. I agree they should continue to draw well.

Chris Mitchell
9 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Fair point. It will be interesting to see what their attendance numbers look like this year and next year.

Mike B.
9 years ago
Reply to  Bob

You beat me to making the point on Charlotte’s new park. Perfect location in Uptown and the fans are showing up in droves. The city’s population explosion of the past decade or so really has be believing they could have a MLB team down the road. As a Cleveland transplant, I hope sometime soon. 🙂

9 years ago
Reply to  Mike B.

These points about Charlotte are correct. The drive to Rock Hill, SC from the northern suburbs was impossible. The Knights could only realistically draw locally and from southern areas of Charlotte. The new central location in downtown is easily accessible for the entire county and thus opens up the entire population of Mecklenburg county. In population, the three northern suburbs of Meck co. are ~90k and the three southern are ~57k. The northern suburbs are more affluent and white. Whites are 80-90% in these suburbs. The median household income jumps from ~$50k to ~80k. The % of females is also slightly lower than Charlotte, -0.7%. The southern suburbs are much the same but the previous stadium location cut out that huge northern chunk of the county. The stadium in Rock Hill was an absolute DUMP! No one wanted to pay money to go to a stadium that looked (literally) like a Soviet bloc sporting venue. I cannot overemphasize how out in the middle of nowhere that stadium was. The new stadium being downtown gives so many things to do. Many people go to the bars and restaurants, which are right next door. I think the attendance will continue to be one of the higher ones in the IL. It may not lead every year or stay as high as it is now but it will remain around that 9k mark, I think.

8 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Ditto on the Charlotte points. I grew out in Southeast Charlotte and going to a Knights game was a chore. There was nothing around it and no reason to go unless you specifically wanted to attend a Knights game.

Now with the stadium uptown, you have access to all the city has to offer, great views, easily accessible and now the ability for a walk-up crowd. As for the “its colder than Austin or Vegas”, that’s a poor excuse. Charlotte is perfectly seasoned from April to October when the season would occur. Won’t have to fear snow baseball in April like the northern cities do and won’t have to have a domed stadium like the southern cities do for hot summer months. Picture Atlanta-esque weather.

Ray Miller
9 years ago

This is a very interesting article on a topic that is always fun to consider–creating new MLB teams. The analytics you use are also intriguing. However, they overlook a bunch of intangibles; you acknowledge some of them in your narratives, but the 500-lb gorillas in the room is really not addressed. First, I would like to see some solid figures about there really being such an excess of Major League talent that new teams could be successfully fielded; you suggested that that is the case, but a lot of guys in the majors now don’t really pass the MLB sniff test. A more important questions is: Do we really need two (much less six) new teams? Grading well according to a set of objective algorithms doesn’t guarantee that the people in these cities actually want a team. The Twins considered moving to Charlotte in the late ’90s, but the locals overwhelmingly voted down a proposal to build a ballpark. Would football-mad Texas really welcome a third team, whether in Austin or San Antonio? As it is, the attention of Astros and Ranger fans tends to wander once the NFL (and college football) season starts. Is the interest in baseball in the Pacific Northwest strong enough to sustain a team in Portland (or Vancouver) along with the Mariners? Or would you just wind up with two teams with mediocre attendance, instead of one with good attendance? People here in New England occasionally crow about how the region could support two teams, but NL teams in Hartford, Worcester and Providence failed in the 19th century, and the Boston Braves finally threw in the towel after a decent team a couple years removed from a pennant couldn’t even draw half a million. New Englanders are Red Sox fans, not necessarily baseball fans, if you know what I mean. Las Vegas looks real good on paper–you mention the fact that there is lots of other things to do there, but you neglect to point out that all of them are connected directly or indirectly with gambling. There are good reasons why Pete Rose has been a pariah for decades, and I doubt that MLB is ready to open that ten-gallon can of worms any time soon. Finally, God himself could come down and patiently explain the demographics to the Wilpons and Steinbrenners, but they would still gag at the notion of letting a third team into their territory. Meanwhile, everyone thought that putting a team in Miami was a sure thing, ditto for Tampa/St. Pete; we all know how that demographic analysis has worked out! It makes far more sense to move the Rays to one of these other cities before expanding. It’s interesting to consider the NHL’s experience: they are obsessed with expanding, have failed in Atlanta twice, and have struggling franchises in Miami and Arizona, and yet are still talking about adding four new teams!

james wilson
9 years ago

Las Vegas is not blessed with warm weather. As one who has attended many games here, and played a few, I can tell you from both perspectives that warm is not how anyone describes that experience.

And there are many other reasons not to place a franchise here. I wish that were not so.

Brooklyn would in fact be the first choice. Far from splitting the baseball ticket in New York, it would increase it. Put them in the AL this time. Boston and Baltimore would especially benefit from the rivalry, and Yankees-Brooklyn would be a hoot.

9 years ago

This might seem like a weird one but how about Allentown, PA. The Iron Pigs draw extremely well for a AAA team and it’s a very fast growing city. Maybe it’s too close to Philly?

9 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Haha – what? It’s an hour from Philly, an hour and a half from NYC, and has a population just over 100,000.

Chris Mitchell
9 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Very close to Philly, and a very tiny population to draw from. Milwaukee is the smallest MSA that currently has a team, and its population (1.6 million) is nearly twice as big as Allentown’s (823,000). If we ignore these two huge caveats, though, Allentown grades out very well by my model: Mostly white, a good number of males, older population, decent incomes.

9 years ago

John DiFool mentioned this but it bears repeating….I think the potential for a team to become a “regional” team is a very big factor. Just look at existing MLB teams – the Cardinals and Red Sox punch above their city-weight because both draw lots of fans from the surrounding region. The same dynamic benefits the Mariners, Giants and Twins to a lesser extent. Whereas the Royals are by themselves, but there are few sizable cities within easy driving distance of KC, and the Pirates are hemmed in by the Phillies, Reds and Indians. Really, most of the MLB teams that are not in very large cities but have large fan bases are regional teams to some extent.

Looked at this way, San Jose and Las Vegas don’t do so well: Las Vegas is basically out there by itself in the middle of the desert, San Jose is is a part of the Bay Area media market and very much hemmed in by the Giants and A’s. Charlotte, however, does very, very well. The Braves basically have a monopoly on the Southeast outside Florida, and there are several small-to-mid size cities in the Carolinas and even southern Virginia that the Charlotte team could conceivably draw fans from. Austin also does well, due to its proximity to San Antonio.

Another, “softer,” issue is local cultural identity: Vegas has a cultural identity, but most of its residents were born elsewhere and probably feel greater affinity for where they came from. San Jose is not simply not very culturally distinct at all – it’s basically seen as an extension of San Francisco and Oakland, even though the city itself is more populous than both.

Basically, I think it helps (though it is not always strictly necessary) if fans feel some kind of affinity for the city that the team purportedly represents, and/or if a team presents itself as the team of a “region.” San Jose and Vegas both fail pretty miserably on both of these counts.

9 years ago

Chris, have you considered using Urbanized Area instead of Metro Area? Using Metro area is quite variable from area to area. I’m not sure it’s best for the kind of analysis you’re doing. For a demonstration of this take a look at this site from the census:


I’m also hesitant to go with you on some of your conclusions. Take your discussion of Providence, for example. You suggest that “it’s not ridiculous to think New England might be able to accommodate another team”. I have to disagree. Understanding the infrastructure in the Northeast might change your model. Frequent train and bus service allows Boston and Providence residents to easily (approx. 1 hour) travel between the two cities. Tampa and Orlando, by comparison do not present this advantage.

Additionally, Boston Red Sox fans have had over 100 years to breed loyalty across New England (you’ll see plenty of Sox gear in Maine). Proximity to a dominant and historic fanbase would be something to consider if you adjust your model.

Have you considered college sports? Vanderbilt and Austin both have popular college teams. Any discussion of Austin without mentioning UT is lacking. The Longhorns have Austin locked down.

I think your analysis could also be aided by looking at the NY Times breakdown of fan allegiance by state:


Thanks for getting the conversation going.

Chris Mitchell
9 years ago
Reply to  Justin

Thanks, Justin. All interesting points, especially on the urbanized areas. I’m certainly not married to the MSA.

9 years ago

I would suggest Utrecht. Sure the metro area is fairly small at about 650 thousand, but the conurbation is huge at 7,1 million people, placing it well above any of the single team cities. Not to mention the fact that the Ruhr Area (7 million people) and the Flemish Diamond (5 million people) are within a two hour drive.

With regards of TV attendance you have the entire Dutch, and probably much of the European market full of people craving for games that are televised at normal hours. The only downside is that the local draw is not that big at the moment. UVV struggles to draw 100 supporters for their games with nearby Amsterdam Pirates and HCAW doing slightly better. The Dutch National Team draws better though and will have a couple of thousand supporters depending on the opponent.

Now about that weather…

Paul G.
9 years ago
Reply to  CKT

Home run balls going into the canal will be a crowd pleaser.

Lilian Bartholo
9 years ago

Why do you consider San Jose as an expansion city (since there are two cities with teams in SF and Oakland) ahead of Brooklyn or Connecticut? Those East Coast cities would easily support three teams before the Bay Area is considered for an expansion.

9 years ago

Connecticut? Like where, West Hartford?

9 years ago

As I predicted yesterday, your failure to account for the CMSA/MSA relationship in understand existing markets, and your failure to have an account of extended areas that are not defined within Census bureau CSAs, has led you to produce a completely absurd and uninformative model. No one who actually understands regional marketing and operations could do anything but laugh. When you start with categories unrelated to the problem you’re trying to solve – and MSAs are such categories – your supposedly data driven work provides garbage results, like the idea that the San Jose and Sacramento markets are not already accounted for. The Oakland A’s are widely (and inappropriately) called “small market.” You, unbelievably, have demonstrated that Northern California could have four different teams. But because Brooklyn happens not to be defined by the Census Bureau as its own MSA, you claim to have no ability to judge whether New York could support a third team.

Chris Mitchell
9 years ago
Reply to  Oaklander

I didn’t mean to imply that California could have four (or even three) different teams. More than anything, I was describing San Jose and Sacramento more as potential landing spots for the A’s.

I’m aware of the flaws with using MSAs, but I’m also not sure other delineations would (or wouldn’t) be any better. This is really just a starting point. I certainly plan to tweak this model in the future, and appreciate the input.

Lilian Bartholo
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mitchell

So San Jose is not really a candidate for expansion since the Bay Area is already occupied with the A’s and the Giants just like in the East it is occupied with the Yankees and the Mets. In reality you really went out of your way to suggest taking baseball away from Oakland just as Bud Selig took baseball away from Montreal. That is not at all dealing with EXPANSION which was the title of your article…MLB has gone from 1.2 billion dollar business to 9 billion during the Bud Selig era. Selig takes pride in saying that during his tenure he built 22 ballparks…21 of them with taxpayers from cities that were threatened/blackmailed by MLB. The Giants ballpark was privately funded, mostly with inverstors from San Jose and Silicon Valley. The corporate welfare era is over….The Oakland A’s owners have a great market and fabricated a “small market” situation by tarping the seats that count in the attendance increasing the premium seats and luxury boxes that hide not just the extra revenue but the attandance numbers. (these seats and boxes are not computed in attendance figures) Very creative accounting so they can keep receiving their welfare check from the shared revenue MLB pie. All the data you spilled out was a bunch of very misinformation to camouflage the modus operandi of the “Lodge”. I call it a Mafia.

Paul G.
9 years ago

Where in the world is Dan Diego? Is it Carmen San Diego’s husband or something?

9 years ago

I want MLB to go to 36 (Six divisions of six teams each). My cities would be Austin, Vancouver, Montreal, Brooklyn, Portland and Mexico City.

Tanned Tom
9 years ago
Reply to  Tim

A franchise in the 3rd world is a non-starter. No non-Hispanic player would be interested in playing there, and very few visiting players would be happy either. Pick a safer city.
No to Montreal. They had their chance.
Austin, Sacramento, San Jose, Vancouver, Portland, and if we must go truly international, Tokyo.

a eskpert
9 years ago
Reply to  Tanned Tom

A safer city? Have you ever been to US Cellular/New Comiskey? How about Oakland? Not nice places, these. And why would Americans be reticent to live in Mexico. They would get paid the same, and have a lower cost of living.

9 years ago

I’d be all for a return to Montreal but Vancouver folded an NBA team within a matter of a few seasons, what makes anyone think that MLB could/would succeed in this market? In my mind anyway, if the Pacific NW is to add a team, Portland makes the most sense.

I like the idea of San Juan, however, the median income numbers thrown out above, suggest that attendance would most likely be an issue and since a big dollar TV contract seems unlikely, the franchise would most likely fail in the long run.

Vegas ain’t gonna happen…It’s just not.

Myself being a WI transplant and a displaced Brewers fan in IN, I would love to see Indy land a team. That said, I think the Reds would fight it and fight it hard, especially since they already share OH with Cleveland and Columbus appears on the list as yet another possible (hypothetical) expantion city.

Looking at this realistically, if you add 6 teams, ideally, you’d be looking to add 1 team to each division, here’s what I would like to see…

East: Montreal and Charlotte
Central: Indianaplois and Nashville
West: Austin and Portland

Enemy of the State
9 years ago
Reply to  Matt

I think by his analysis he pretty much proved why Vancouver was better than Portland. The Grizzly’s also don’t make sense to compare as he showed statistically baseball and basketball have the most opposite demographic of viewers. The NBA’s failure in Vancouver is actually due to the reasons baseball would be better received there: older rich white people with a successful minor league baseball team.

9 years ago

I lived in Vancouver for 10 years and it is not a good baseball town. They had a AAA baseball team in the PCL until 1999, but there was little interest in fixing up Nat Bailey Stadium, so the Vancouver Canadians moved to Sacramento. Vancouver has more than 2 million residents but only has an A-ball team, and the attendance has likely been stronger in recent years because the major league affiliate (the Blue Jays) has done a good job promoting the team.

I do hope Vancouver eventually gets a team, but I picture major league baseball in Vancouver as being like the Mariners in the Kingdome with half the population/attendance.

9 years ago

Very interesting study! I certainly don’t see the need for such inappropriately hostile comments as some of the ones you’ve received. Kudos for your measured replies. If/when you do tweak the formulas, perhaps go by primary statistical area instead? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_primary_statistical_areas_of_the_United_States) It’s not an official Census designation, but consists of all combined statistical areas (CSAs) plus all metropolitan and micropolitan areas outside of any CSA. This way you can group some very close MSAs together, such Baltimore and Washington, San Francisco/Oakland and San Jose, Boston and Providence, Raleigh and Durham, etc.

9 years ago

Brooklyn should have a team, as a matter of historical justice- also two NL teams in NYC (I assume
the team would be in the NL) would revive the old Brooklyn Dodgers- NY Giants rivalry and increase attendance.
The owner of the team would have to be a billionaire, and would have to pay the Yanks and Mets a substantial
payment for 5-10 years to get their agreement. Presumably the new stadium would be where the Brooklyn Nets play, which is where O’Malley wanted to put his new stadium sixty years ago. This time, presumably the idea of a new stadium would not be irrationally opposed as it was in the 1950s by Robert Moses, who was the czar of
building projects in NYC at the time, and did everything to drive O’Malley out of the city except spit in his face. Also, Brooklyn is, it seems, now growing and is reasonably prosperous, whereas in the 1950s its white population was leaving in droves and the blacks/Hispanics who arrived weren’t baseball fans. Today a
reasonable Brooklyn team could draw 3 million, easily.

9 years ago

U can’t just use MSA alone for San Jose cause it is part of the San Francisco Bay Area with over 7-8 million people. I believe that the A’s using a tarp to cover the upper deck and an unattractive old ballpark is the reason why they are a small market team. With a new stadium for the A’s in Oakland, it will become a revenue generator and they will be a big market team with way more sponsors and a more lucrative media deal. They don’t need to move to San Jose to be a wealthy team. The Bay Area is a big market and the A’s should stay in Oakland.

Al Dimond
9 years ago

I’m not so sure it makes sense to take a model based on US cities with MLB teams and apply it rote to Mexico City or San Juan.

– Average income means something different. Cost of living is much lower in San Juan than NYC, and a team in San Juan would surely charge less for tickets and concessions. Obviously the San Juan team would have to pay its players just like the NYC team, so it would have to raise real money from ticket sales and advertising, and that lifts ticket prices. The question is less, “Does anyone have disposable income?”, and more, “Are people’s disposable incomes sufficient to support MLB-level expenses?”

– The model doesn’t include population explicitly, but implicitly considers it by accounting for the presence of MLB, NFL, and NBA teams. Excluding multi-MLB-team cities limits the model cities to a narrow population band; San Juan is within the band but Mexico City is way beyond it. The finding that NFL+NBA cities do better than NFL-only cities seems to favor larger population, but since none of these leagues have yet expanded to Mexico City, it doesn’t get credit for its population here, either.

– Being Hispanic (by ethnicity or language) in a Spanish-speaking city means something completely different than it does in the mainland US. Racial identities and their significance actually varies quite a lot place to place — the US census categories can’t even describe Mexico’s conception of race (I don’t know so much about Puerto Rico; it’s likely they’re a poor fit there, too). In many US cities with baseball teams Hispanic ethnicity correlates with an identity that’s about another place — sort of like retirees in Florida and Arizona and tech industry transplants in the Bay Area, it includes many people that feel they have two home towns, and may continue cheering for another city’s teams (of course, not exclusively). It’s also a minority ethnicity in most baseball cities, and one that can be excluded from civic identity. None of that stuff is true in Mexico City or San Juan!

I’d be skeptical of San Juan’s economy being big enough to support a competitive MLB team. I’m not going to say Mexico City’s case is obvious, either, in the short term. There’s clear enthusiasm for baseball (a successful baseball league, even, paralleling minor-league success in the profiled US cities) but it might take time for a team in a totally different league to catch on… especially when travel for fans involves an international border and a language barrier. Soccer is the NFL-analogue; with passionate local support their league is locally strong but not a global power. Competition among a mere 35 other MLB teams (under an expansion scenario) would not be that tall an order, though. If it can get past the short-term I think it’s a great long-term move. It might be a necessary long-term risk. Failing to expand baseball’s appeal in the US beyond middle-aged white guys will guarantee its irrelevance.

9 years ago

Is it really the proportion of the male population or the of the male population that’s in play here? Does adding only female residents to a city actually make the city worse for baseball according to the model? If so, it is causal and why?

When women are scarce, do men just watch baseball instead?

Or is it some confound: e.g. maybe the cities who attract more men more attractive to baseball for other reasons (maybe those cities have a healthy job market, resulting in high wages and attracting disproportionately male migrants)? Or maybe the cities with more women are actually older cities, given how much women outnumber men in the 65+ bracket.

9 years ago

It seems to me the whole key to a city becoming a MLB team would be can it push up TV revenue. To me any team placed in an area of an existing, strong tv package deal is doa (ie NYC or Bay area). Putting a team here is not going to grow the pie, that is my assumption. So when looking at expansion you are looking at areas that can generate new TV revenue. It would seem to me Charlotte is ideal as they can become a regional team. By this criteria I do not see any other viable contender in the US. Texas maybe (Austin or San Antonio), but with the heat and being football country? California, yes a populous state, but 5 teams already. Portland, is smallish, but eventually would make sense. Las Vegas will become viable when a franchise goes there from one of the major pro sports (NHL?) and succeeds. Canada has two major media conglomerates. One (Rogers) owns the Blue Jays and sportsnet, a Canadian ESPN. The other (Bell) conglomerate owns TSN the other Canadean Espn, but does not have the NHL contract (Rogers does). and no MLB team. Bell, if they were interested, would be the type of group MLB would need for a new Canadian team. To expand to Mexico or the Caribbean is decades away. The financial base is not there now. Thanks for the good article.

Randy Salcedo
9 years ago

1. Brooklyn
2. Austin
3. Charlotte

After that I don’t see another good option unless it is Mexico or Dominican (which I don’t know enough about)…. San Jose fans are mostly Giants fans and Oakland already does not draw that well. Portland?? Forget about it, too much outdoor activity in the summer and besides Nike there would not be much corporate support. Vancouver BC??? Forget it, they could not support the NBA and it has a strong Chinese demographic that should have been much more NBA supportive than MLB….

9 years ago

Interesting ideas, however Cuba has hardly been in political turmoil, it has a very stable regime. It does have severe economic issues.

an interested Canadian
9 years ago

This is the first time in my life I’ve heard that Montreal was warmer than Vancouver. I take it you mean summer temperatures – noting that would make the article make much more sense.

9 years ago

The author makes the effort to look at NYC, true – but he does sorta sort talk it too softly, and I guess that’s why people are complaining.

Before the San Jose Lawsuit thing came up (and different than what the author says, there are no ‘legal barriers’ to putting a team in SJ – a 75% owners yes vote would simply do it) , it had become sorta known that the big teams like the Yankees would never support the A’s to move to SJ, just so that they can assert autonomy over their own backyards.

Of course a 3rd NYC would fly…

Ignoring all the demographic stuff – part 1 – sorry.

9 years ago

Putting a new team in Brooklyn as a third New York team would automatically attract a big following, because of the historical importance of the Brooklyn Dodgers team with Jackie Robinson, which still has a large potential following if it ever came into existence again (of course it wouldn’t be called the Dodgers). Literally millions of people all over the US (and overseas) would be its fans from the word go. Add to that an automatic rivalry with the Mets from the word go, and a location in downtown Brooklyn a few minutes from Manhattan, where the subways and Long Island Railway converge, and even a tail end team would have an attendance of over 2 million- a pennant winner, probably 4 million.

Johnny P
9 years ago
Reply to  Bill

No way would a team in Brooklyn succeed.

There’s been two very popular, firmly entrenched teams in NYC for half a century. How many people are going to abandon the Yankees and the Mets for a new Brooklyn team? I doubt many.

In 2014, for example, the Yankees and the Mets drew a combined 5,550,432. Split that three ways, and each team draws 1.8 million, putting them near the bottom of baseball attendance. Unless you think that a million extra people are going to be going to baseball games in NYC all of a sudden, Brooklyn isn’t going to work.

9 years ago
Reply to  Johnny P

New York City supported three teams for 55 years, with no trouble. With the Wild Card spot, if NYC had three teams today, all could contend for playoff spots, unlike the pre-1958 situation. The NYC metropolitan area has a population of 20 million. More than enough for three fan bases, to say nothing of tv revenue, etc,

Johnny P
9 years ago
Reply to  Johnny P

In 1957, the Dodgers, despite four pennants in five years, were fifth in the NL in attendance. The Giants were last, with less than 700,000 fans. That’s not succeeding.

Paul G.
9 years ago
Reply to  Johnny P

“New York City supported three teams for 55 years, with no trouble.”

Teams generally do not leave lucrative markets without good reason. Furthermore, abandoned lucrative markets do not tend to stay abandoned for very long. Until the Continental League forced their hand, there did not appear to be any rush to replace the Giants/Dodgers in NYC. While weird things like this do happen – Los Angeles has not had an NFL team for two decades despite supporting two NBA teams and two MLB teams – it is not normally how things work.

If you look at the attendance figures in the 1950s, Brooklyn was doing well, regularly drawing over a million fans a season and usually ranking #1 or #2 in NL attendance. However, the Giants were struggling. After drawing 1.2 million in 1954 when they won the World Series, attendance dropped to 800K in 1955 and 600K in 1956. Keep in mind that 1955 is the year after winning the World Series, they sported the reigning MVP in Willie Mays, and they finished 3rd albeit 18 and half games back of Brooklyn. They were 6th in attendance that year, including finishing behind St. Louis and Chicago both of which had losing records. With a bad team in 1956 they were last in attendance.

Generally, this is not what you would expect to see with a market having no trouble supporting three teams. The market may have been viable for a long time, but at this point something had changed and it was no longer the case.

If a third NYC team was added today, my guess is the situation would mirror what happens in the NHL. If all the teams are good everything is fine. If one of the teams is struggling for any significant period of time, especially if that team is the new team, expect that team to struggle financially. It would not surprise me if one of the teams would eventually fail and have to move.

Paul G.
9 years ago
Reply to  Johnny P

Also, the NHL analogy is a bit forced for baseball. New York only had the Rangers for a long time, then expanded with the Islanders in 1972 and the Devils in 1982 (actually moved from Colorado). The situation is unique in that the Islanders are all the way out in Nassau County on Long Island which is a fairly long trip with multiple (expensive) tolls for anyone in New Jersey and is not exactly a short trip from Manhattan. You would never put a baseball stadium out there. When the Devils joined the fun they were drawing from Rangers fans and unaffiliated New Jersey fans who didn’t want to have to go into the city. The Islanders essentially had their own market, albeit a relatively small one.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the Islanders move to Brooklyn.

Another Bill
9 years ago

One international city that jumps out, in a country that’s very into baseball: Caracas, Venezuela. The metropolitan area is 3.2 million, the district has over 5 million. Said to be the most dangerous city in Latin America, and I guess any problems that existed in Mexico City and Santo Domingo would be even worse in Caracas. Also a leader who’s more than willing to stir up international controversy with the US as a way to bolster his domestic popularity.

Still, I would have liked to have seen its numbers crunched for this article. In most ways it seems more ready than Havana. But it’s also easy to see why it wasn’t considered as a possibility.

Elias Laniado
9 years ago

Great article, read both part 1 and 2. The only flaw I see is that I found the word “attendance” about 50 times and TV revenue none. People’s purchase power to attend games and spend $80dlls is very important but is no longer the main source of revenue for teams. Making a case for Mexico City, you could charge an average of $15 per ticket in a 50,000 seater and have a very decent average attendance. Now imagine 20 million mexican fans (110M population), TV ratings off the charts, MLB.com subscriptions, merchandise, you know the rest. As for the players living in Mexico City, if you have traveled there recently, the quality of life for rich people is amazing and so is security (more crime in Detroit, Chicago, LA), so that would not be an issue.
In my opinion, Las Vegas makes the best US City. The AAA 51’s attendance is poor, but who really wants to watch a AAA team play? Hardcore baseball fans, and to some degree, there is an argument the level at AA is better because you got the prospects and not the QuadA players. When thinking of a city for professional sports you want to have families in the game, people that cheer and scream during every flyout thinking the ball has been hit out of the park. People eating and drinking a different thing every inning that has no idea that the pitcher was lifted because he had a blister in his hand. The gambling thing works against Las Vegas but you can bet anywhere in the US. There is more people gambling online than in the casinos nowadays.
The stadium would need to be well located near the “strip” because tourist in Vegas don’t like to commute long distances and maybe that’s what happens with the 51’s team. A family on vacations will not take a 60dll cab to go watch the 51’s.

9 years ago

Agree TV needs to be a much bigger part of this. Example: Indians ranked 4th MLB in local tv ratings in 2014 and their yearly local tv revenue is greater than their ticket revenue. So, I think that would help markets like Portland, Charlotte and may mitigate negatives for the south-of-the-border markets. Speaking of which, I think I read a similar expansion analysis recently that concluded Monterrey was a much better prospect than Mexico City. I thought it was due to incomes but that’s not born out here.

9 years ago

The Vancouver Canadians are short-season A, not low-A.

9 years ago
Reply to  Brendan

Aren’t they the same thing? You have high or advanced A (California, Carolina, FSL), regular A (Midwest, SAL), and low or short-season A (Northwest, NYP).

9 years ago
Reply to  Lou

No. Low A is what you have called “Regular A”. The MWL and SAL are low A.

Chaim Mattis Keller
9 years ago

The historical appeal of Brooklyn is understandable, but is actually the biggest reason that it’s a BAD place to put a third MLB team in the New York area. As the former home of the Dodgers, Brooklyn became automatic Mets territory when the Mets moved in. Putting a team in Brooklyn would not split the New York market into three roughly even parts, it would simply split the Mets fan base while leaving the Yankees fan base untouched. If there’s anywhere for a third New York Metro area team, it would almost certainly have to be New Jersey.

9 years ago

I wouldn’t be too sure about that. It seems from the map linked below that Mets don’t have a plurality of fan support anywhere in the region, even in Queens.


While the NYC metro area could certainly support at least a third team, the real problem is that the Yankees and Mets would have to be bought off, which would likely be prohibitively expensive.

Chaim Mattis Keller
9 years ago
Reply to  Lou

I don’t know how accurately that map reflects team affiliation, but even if one were to take it as gospel, the fact still remains that the majority of fans with some sense of nostalgia for when Brooklyn had its own team became Met fans rather than switching to the Yankees after the Dodgers left town. If Brooklyn were to trade on that regional identity, the result would disproportionately affect the Mets, not create three sort-of-equal fan bases.

9 years ago

Providence is very interesting. Boston and New England love baseball. Lots of families that fit your demographics would love to go to Sox games but find the entire package including trasportation and parking to be inhibitive. Having myself visited other MLB cities and enjoyed the relatively low prices for attendace, I think that a second New England team would not only be able to be supprted but would thrive.

9 years ago

This is interesting and well done, I think, but you swung and missed on Charlotte and glossed over something critical.

The Knights bottomed out in attendance 2005-2013 in the IL because their ballpark wasn’t in Charlotte; it was Knight’s Castle twenty minutes south of town in the middle of an industrial-ish park in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

2014, when the attendance topped out (as it likely will again in 2015) was the Knights’ first season in uptown Charlotte in their beautiful new ballpark right next door to Bank of America Stadium where the Panthers play.

So, it’s no surprise why the attendance history was a little unusual; the club finally got a usable, beautiful ballpark in the heart of uptown CLT and the fans rewarded them by showing up.

When you consider more than just population and demographic factors, I think Charlotte (and Portland, and Las Vegas) are your three best bets for MLB expansion. Cities like San Jose, Austin, and Columbus will never (ever, ever, EVER) get expansion franchises because they are far, far too close to current MLB cities.

Yes, the Braves would probably fight Charlotte’s MLB franchise tooth and nail because of Atlanta’s TV spread in the southeastern U.S., but I think eventually that will subside/be defeated (as the Orioles were defeated by the incursion of the Washington Nationals).

Anyways, interesting and thorough two-parter, thank you for putting this together. My money is on Las Vegas, Portland, and Charlotte (and maybe Montreal or even Puerto Rico, but that’s kinda kooky?) eventually picking up MLB franchises.

Ralph Yoder
9 years ago
Reply to  Bobby

I like new markets to be established in Baton Rouge and Albany. Baton Rouge is close to New Orleans, and could conceivably attract persons from Memphis, Little Rock and Florida panhandle.
Albany creates another team in the flush Yankee and Red Sox areas. Those teams could handle it well. Make it a national league market perhaps.

Statistics don't lie
9 years ago

Maybe I missed this, but it seems that a new team being moved into an existing team’s territory is required to pay a fee to the team that stands to lose market share. This was a significant price for Nationals coming into Orioles’ territory.

I would absolutely love it if the NYY’s would have their revenues cut in half so that other teams could better compete. However, the payoff required to move in to NYC would be exorbitant. Bill Gates could pay it, if he were inclined, and maybe a few others, that’s it. So, it would seem that NYY will continue in perpetuity to be in the top 10% of total revenues among MLB. Too bad, because if there is ever to be a level playing field, somebody has to address the white elephant in the room.

9 years ago

what were the drivers/ problems with Virginia Beach that pushed it down to 12th?

9 years ago
Reply to  jw

I’ve lived in the VB region just about all my life…the biggest arguments is that the region, which is divided into seven primary cities (plus a few other smaller cities and counties), doesn’t cooperate on larger scale projects. The biggest roadblock would be figuring out how to finance the stadium, and where it would go. If a compromise were to be worked out, and the seven cities were to band together (or even Virginia Beach and Norfolk), they would have a good shot.

There’s also the argument that the population is very transient, due to the large military influence. While that may be true, I don’t see it as being a huge deterrent.

Bee Gizzle
9 years ago

A number that I would be curious to see is the evolution of increase in stadium capacities from 1900 to present. Willing to guess capacities increased for the most part up through the seventies, then dropped or stayed flat for the time since. I personally would love to see the model of HUGE STADIUM + LOWER TICKET COSTS used in areas where it could fly and do really well. Such as the metro areas of Chicago, NYC, Mexico (other cities as well) City, etc. Price tickets to draw upwards of 60-100k people each home game. Sounds ridiculous but is done all over the country in the fall on Saturdays, often in less dense population areas. You will have a serious competitive advantage of getting people to your games over NFL and NBA with tickets becoming most affordable for families larger than one.

9 years ago

“For what it’s worth, the Vancouver Canadians — the Blue Jays’ Low-A affiliate — have had the second-highest attendance in the Northwest League in nine of the last 10 years. Only the Spokane Indians (out of Spokane, Wash.) have managed to outdraw Vancouver”

Keep in mind the population of the cities in the Northwest League:

Vancouver 2,313,328
Boise 214,237
Spokane 210,721
Salem 160,614
Eugene 159,190
Everett 105,370
Hillsboro 97,368
Tri-City (Pasco) 67,599

Not hard to draw well when you are 10 times the size of the other cities in the league.

9 years ago

Geography matters. Take a look at Utah’s CSA of over 3mil. with a very high median income. One of the fastest growing regions in the west, and the area currently supports one AAA franchise and three short season teams. Their viewership reach could be massive (All of Utah, Idaho, Montana, and tentacles into Wyoming and Nevada).

Charlotte’s a winner, and I think Portland makes sense when you consider Salem and Vancover, WA into their region, not to mention viewership from the whole of the state.

What about a whole division of Far East teams: Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Melbourne? Logistical nightmare, but not undoable if off days are generous. Might need to go back to the 154 game season.

9 years ago

Charlotte native here:

The reason for the large increase in attendance at AAA Charlotte Knights games was mainly due to the new stadium, but it IS sustainable. The main reason people didn’t go to games is because the “Charlotte” Knights actually played about 40 minutes outside the city in a dump. With the new, nicer stadium in the heart of the city, attendance is booming.

9 years ago

The moral of the story for the comments section?

“Your argument is wrong unless it involves my city getting a team!”

Dave P
9 years ago

I read many of the comments, but not all, so I apologize if this has been mentioned:
an MLB team in Mexico or Caribbean locales would immediately decrease the fan bases of existing teams, perhaps in a big way. I’m not saying it would kill attendance, but still.
A Mexican team would steal fans from the Dodgers, Angels, DBacks, and to a lesser extent the TX teams. A team in Havana, while awesome, would, I fear, virtually kill the Marlins franchise. A Dominican and/or Puerto Rican team would also hinder the FL teams, as well as the Yankees.

9 years ago

I take issue with your statement that Montreal is warmer than Vancouver. True, July is warmer in Montreal (22 degrees C avg. high in Vancouver vs. 26 degrees C avg. high in Vancouver), however, overall Vancouver is a warmer city than Montreal (14 degrees C vs. 11 degrees C annual average). Where this really comes into play is in the shoulder months. Vancouver can be quite mild in April/May and September/October whereas Montreal can be quite cold at these times, which would arguably lead to better attendance figures in Vancouver.

9 years ago

This line threw me for a loop:

“It’s also not particularly warm in San Jose, even in the summer.”

As someone who has lived in the South Bay (aka “Silicon Valley”), I’m perplexed by this statement. The average high temperature in the month of April in San Jose is 70 degrees. Is that not warm enough for you? Certainly it’s warmer than the cities the current baseball teams in the Bay Area play in (Oakland: averages 66 degrees in April and San Francisco: averages 63 degrees in April).

Couple that with monthly average high temperatures of San Jose in May (75), June (81), July (84), August (84), and September (82) and I’m going to have to conclude that your statement is patently ridiculous.

9 years ago

With regards to Vancouver, the commenters trying to draw conclusions from the fate of the Grizzlies are completely missing the mark. As a winter sport, the NBA is less interesting to Canadians than lacrosse. It is — and this is no exaggeration — much less interesting than curling. And it certainly can’t compete with the Only Winter Sport That Matters, the sport that for Canada is like the NFL, the MLB, and NASCAR rolled into one. It would be very difficult for any imported sport to compete with hockey, and for any team that tries to draw fans in the same market and season as an active NHL team. Fortunately, as a game played (mostly) in the hockey off-season, baseball doesn’t have that problem. It’s even not entirely imported, since a large percentage of Canadian MLB players got their start in the lower mainland.

However, the demographics for Vancouver cited in the article are almost meaningless without acknowledging the city’s racial/cultural makeup. The previous article in this series noted that there was a negative correlation between a high Hispanic population and attendance; what does the author think the relationship would be between attendance and a high South Asian or Chinese population? How about both? Greater Vancouver might have a population of ~2.1 Million, but 42% of that are “visible minorities.” Subtract out the 1% Japanese and 2% Korean that might (generously) have an affinity for baseball, and you still have well over a third of the population — most of them Chinese (18%) or South Asian (11%) — with no connection to the sport whatsoever. Which isn’t to say MLB might not be able to build one — there’s now a Punjabi broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada, and South Asians are increasingly visible in the stands at Canucks games — but you’re starting from a much smaller potential attendance base than the raw population numbers suggest. (And it’s likely that baseball, as an “American” import, will never have the cachet that hockey has for minorities looking to assimilate into the dominant Canadian culture; hockey is for immigrant Canadians what baseball was for Greenberg and the DiMaggios).

So for the purposes of this exercise, Vancouver should be assessed at a population closer to 1M than 2M, which I think alters its desirability to MLB quite a bit.

Bob B
9 years ago

Would be curious to hear your thoughts on Columbus, which was #6 on your list.

It’s clearly a college town (Ohio State football is MASSIVE here: bigger than most major sports franchises in other cities). But, surprising to many, the NHL Blue Jackets have been popular, in spite of annually being terrible.

And the AAA Clippers have annually made the list of top minor league teams since starting back up in 1979.

9 years ago

Surprised not to see Omaha, NE on your list. I guess there is just not enough people there. Omaha has the only “MLB ready” baseball park (TD Ameritrade Park) in the United States that currently does not have a pro baseball team. No NFL or NBA. Probably a large white majority, too. Not sure the level of affluence, but I’m sure being the home of Warren Buffet and the Schneider family in nearby Lincoln can help a little.