For many people, Major League Baseball is America’s pastime. There are many others who have changed their minds about that and are shying away from baseball in this day and age. The entertainment dollar only goes so far and it has seen fans in pro cities with bad teams staying away from the ballpark in droves. The 2013 season saw seven teams average less than 57% capacity on a game-by-game basis. Those kinds of numbers must be disturbing and it brings to mind other cities that could support an MLB team.
There are ten cities that deserve a chance to have a pro baseball team. They are some of the biggest in the United States and also include a major city in Canada. These towns could support having a new MLB team whether by relocating a team from another struggling city or even creating an expansion team that could bring baseball to 32 clubs. There are simply too many cities seeing their multi-million-dollar ballparks be empty because of ticket prices, the quality of play on the field or just the fact that the younger generation doesn’t appear to be into baseball as much.
Will MLB consider the idea of having teams in any of these cities? It’s only a matter of time before some move is made one way or another. There were five teams that averaged less than 22,000 fans per game last season. These other cities may have the ability to beat those numbers on a yearly basis. Here are the top ten cities that deserve the chance to have an MLB franchise.
10. Virginia Beach, Virginia
The beachfront community in Virginia is in the top 40 in US population and could bring a very interesting dynamic to a professional team and stadium. While it is a resort community that hosts the East Coast Surfing Championships and the North American Sand Soccer Championship, a stadium built on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean would have a special appeal. Fans can only imagine the idea of a ball flying out of the stadium and into the ocean. There would be arguments from the teams in Baltimore and Washington but it is somewhere baseball should examine.
9. Charlotte, North Carolina
The largest city in North Carolina already has the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Bobcats, so why not a pro baseball team as well? Charlotte is the 17th largest city in the United States with a population just over 775,000. There are other cities which haven’t been able to support a pro team in their town so why shouldn’t baseball explore a city that already has three major sports teams in it and see how it goes. There are already three cities that can’t average more than 20,000 per game. Time for MLB to consider Charlotte as an option.
8. Honolulu, Hawaii
Here is a place that no fans are going to want to avoid their home team. While Hawaii is truly paradise already, a franchise based on the islands would be something worth seeing. Honolulu is the Southernmost and Westernmost major U.S. city, and while the travel could be a problem, the sheer views of the Hawaiian Islands make up for the time difference. Honolulu has nearly 400,000 residents and it is already the place of the NFL Pro Bowl. It could be a real stretch but at least fans would have something to look out at if the team was bad.
7. Albuquerque, New Mexico
As the 32nd biggest city in the United States with over 555,000 residents, Albuquerque could have potential as a baseball town. While the city already has the Isotopes that came about from an episode of The Simpsons, a pro sports team could be great in the desert. The stadium in Albuquerque right now has just 13,279 seats so obviously a new ballpark would need to be built, but the Isotopes were named the fourth most valuable minor league franchise just two years ago so there is a lot of interest there. Who wouldn’t want to see “Hungry Hungry Homer” in center field for a real life pro Isotopes game?
6. Columbus, Ohio
The capital of Ohio already has the NHL’s Blue Jackets and Ohio State University but adding a new team to the town could be an attractive option. It is the 15th biggest city in the United States with just over 800,000 residents and has the room to add another pro team. There would be conflicts with Ohio State games which would need to be ironed out, but that can be easily solved with creative game times. There were three MLB teams which averaged less than 50% of their seats filled in 2013. Who says Columbus couldn’t do better?
5. Portland, Oregon
There has been a push for years to bring Major League Baseball to the Rose City. The Trail Blazers are the only pro sports team out of the four major sports there and it would give Seattle a natural rival each season just like the Blazers and Supersonics were in basketball. Portland has a population just over 600,000 and easily could handle another team in town. There is also the Portland Timbers soccer team that sells out games all the time. Baseball would work in Portland, with a domed stadium of course, as it could certainly be a city that embraces MLB.
4. San Antonio, Texas
The seventh-largest U.S. city at 1.38 million people is the largest American city without a professional baseball team or even Triple-A minor league team. There are already two teams in Texas with the Rangers and Astros, but Houston’s attendance has been on the decline in recent years with their poor play on the field. The San Antonio Spurs are already in town and it has been proved that fans do show up in bunches there. Presently, the highest level of baseball in in the city is the San Antonio Missions Doube A team. The residents deserve a chance to root for a pro baseball team in their large city.
3. Las Vegas, Nevada
Here is a city that will come with a lot of questions. There is legal sports betting in Vegas which could compromise things, but the allure of the Strip at night to go with a pro team has to be considered. There have been conversations in the past about teams moving there and there are exhibition games played at Cashman Field every season. The New York Mets have their Triple-A affiliate in Vegas but the time has come for a team with low attendance to make their mark in Sin City. It could be one of the biggest moves ever in baseball history if it were to occur.
2. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Ten years ago, Oklahoma City would have never made this list, but after seeing the city’s reaction when the New Orleans Hornets played there for two years and now the Thunder, a pro baseball team would be the next logical step. The city already hosts the Triple-A championship game on a yearly basis and the NCAA Women’s College World Series. Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark is already considered one of the finest minor league parks in the country. A new park would be needed since Chickasaw holds a seating capacity of only 9,000 but it’s a great city option for a relocating team
1. Montreal, Quebec
Any discussions about a city that need a Major League Baseball starts with Montreal, the home of the Expos from 1969-2004 before the team relocated to Washington. The city has their Canadiens but the baseball history in Montreal is overwhelming. It is the place where Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1946 as a member of the Montreal Royals. While attendance declined in the last years of the Expos, fans still love the game and filled the Olympic Stadium for two exhibition games between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets this spring. It will take a new downtown stadium to get the job done but Youppi! and Expos fans everywhere deserve better and should get a team back in town.