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Magnus

Proper size for a pro sports team

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I was just wondering, so I thought I'd pose the question to the community.

What size of population is really necessary for a pro sports team to be financially successful?

I'm thinking immediately of Green Bay, whose "city" population is just over 100k, but whose CSA has about 300k people. Green Bay, of course, is a special case, where the fans own the team, but it did get me speculating.

Well, let's get the discussion going!

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Only the NFL can work in an area that small. The games are an event as there are only eight of them. They rely on the entire state (and beyond) to go to those games and that would never work if they were playing 25 mid-week games like in the NHL or NBA.

I don't think it has as much to do with fan ownership as it does with "NFL" and just how beloved the Packers are in Wisconsin. So maybe an NFL team in some other area like that would not work...in the quirky history of professional football a lot of teams from smaller markets did not make it. Only Green Bay did. Perhaps that was related to public ownership, but even so, this has come to be through a perfect storm.

That said, I don't know what the "proper" size is. Depends on the sport and all sorts of other factors such as ease of travel, economic well-being, etc. But obviously, MLB, NHL, and NBA rely on the ability for people to be able to get to a 7:00 game on a Tuesday. A somewhat sizeable area is needed.

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I've taken to watching sports on weekends only, so perhaps I, as a fan, am gravitating to that idea as well. I also take note, though, that the Canadian Hockey League strives to make the majority of its games on the weekend, which not only allows its players to attend school (most of the time), but allows fans to be home on the weekend to either watch it on TV or attend the game in person.

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What sport? What level of said sport?

Without that information, it's impossible to answer.

For example - minor league baseball succeeds in much smaller locales and venues than major league could/would never attempt.

Population isn't the be-all end-all either, or else Montreal would still have a team, and Washington DC and Seattle never would have lost teams.

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What sport? What level of said sport?

Without that information, it's impossible to answer.

For example - minor league baseball succeeds in much smaller locales and venues than major league could/would never attempt.

Population isn't the be-all end-all either, or else Montreal would still have a team, and Washington DC and Seattle never would have lost teams.

Thanks for posing the question. I've been thinking of hockey.

I live in Northern Ontario. According to population data I have garnered, the Northern Ontario region has a population of 730,000.

The largest population centres, unfortunately, are Greater Sudbury (160,000) and Thunder Bay (110,000). However, Green Bay is smaller. (102,000), with a CSA of 324,000.

Considering the travel concerns between population centres, I'd envision an arena built somewhere relatively close to the midpoint between the two - perhaps Sault Ste Marie, Ontario (population 75,000), or Wawa, (population 3,000) at the halfway point between Sudbury and Thunder Bay.

Now, Sault Ste. Marie has the Essar Centre for the OHL Greyhounds (capacity 5,000), but obviously an arena of much larger capacity would be needed for something on an NHL level. Perhaps I'm thinking the AHL might be a good fit, with an arena of about 10,000 capacity. TD Place Arena in Ottawa seats 10,000, and was built for about $70 million - a number that I'm sure the mining companies of Northern Ontario could put up easily if they wanted to be major sponsors/co-owners.

It's all speculation, of course. Since the distance from Sudbury to Wawa is still 5 hours by car, getting there on a Tuesday night is not an option unless a high-speed commuter train network is set up through Northern Ontario. I'm actually kind of hoping development of the Ring of Fire mining region will help here, as many more tax dollars brought by many more people would be needed to fund public infrastructure such as that.

The total straight line distance between Thunder Bay and Sudbury is 657 KM as the crow flies, so based on a cost-per-kilometre of high speed rail of $25 million, $16.4 billion in investment would have to be made just on the railway to make that happen. But it would all be part of developing Northern Ontario - not just for the sake of a mid-level hockey team.

(I'm actually kind of rooting for global warming at this point, so more people would be forced northward and inland. lol)

Edited by Magnus

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Realistically, you need to be in an area that has a population of about a half million people.

There are several exceptions to the rule (Green Bay, being one), but for the most part, that's really the very minimum in terms of bringing in one of the big four leagues to your area and expecting consistent turnout to be enough to profit. Different sports are different bears, too. It's easier to support a pro basketball team than a pro football or baseball team due to operation costs and such.

None of this is scientific on my part, and population is similar to inflation in that the numbers are always going to fluxuate, but I can't really think of a number of cities that have pro teams that don't have around that many people. I've spent most of my life in between a city that has enough growth to some day be a promising major league city, but that's still quite a ways off and only recently got a AAA baseball team (Reno, Nevada. Which is home to about a quarter of a million people), and a city that is barely teetering on the brink of being big enough to support a pro team, and that has traditionally had some problems (Sacramento, California. Just under, you guessed it, a half a million people), so this is mainly just observations from that.

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Realistically, you need to be in an area that has a population of about a half million people.

There are several exceptions to the rule (Green Bay, being one), but for the most part, that's really the very minimum in terms of bringing in one of the big four leagues to your area and expecting consistent turnout to be enough to profit. Different sports are different bears, too. It's easier to support a pro basketball team than a pro football or baseball team due to operation costs and such.

None of this is scientific on my part, and population is similar to inflation in that the numbers are always going to fluxuate, but I can't really think of a number of cities that have pro teams that don't have around that many people. I've spent most of my life in between a city that has enough growth to some day be a promising major league city, but that's still quite a ways off and only recently got a AAA baseball team (Reno, Nevada. Which is home to about a quarter of a million people), and a city that is barely teetering on the brink of being big enough to support a pro team, and that has traditionally had some problems (Sacramento, California. Just under, you guessed it, a half a million people), so this is mainly just observations from that.

Yup. So I think Northern Ontario as a whole, with about 700k, could make it work, given a lot of infrastructure investment intended to help the region grow, rather than just be part of supporting an AHL team.

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Well, your metropolitan area is also a big factor here, too. Sacramento as a city has a population of about a half million people, but the entire metro area consists of 4X that many people. They also have huge metro area just to the west, so it makes it even easier.

If those numbers you're talking are for the entire area, you'd damn sure better hope that you've got some totally rabid and dedicated fans every year, even when you suck :P

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Well, your metropolitan area is also a big factor here, too. Sacramento as a city has a population of about a half million people, but the entire metro area consists of 4X that many people. They also have huge metro area just to the west, so it makes it even easier.

If those numbers you're talking are for the entire area, you'd damn sure better hope that you've got some totally rabid and dedicated fans every year, even when you suck :P

Considering the amount of Leafs fans in Sudbury, I think we'll be just fine.

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What sport? What level of said sport?

Without that information, it's impossible to answer.

For example - minor league baseball succeeds in much smaller locales and venues than major league could/would never attempt.

Population isn't the be-all end-all either, or else Montreal would still have a team, and Washington DC and Seattle never would have lost teams.

Thanks for posing the question. I've been thinking of hockey.

I live in Northern Ontario. According to population data I have garnered, the Northern Ontario region has a population of 730,000.

The largest population centres, unfortunately, are Greater Sudbury (160,000) and Thunder Bay (110,000). However, Green Bay is smaller. (102,000), with a CSA of 324,000.

Considering the travel concerns between population centres, I'd envision an arena built somewhere relatively close to the midpoint between the two - perhaps Sault Ste Marie, Ontario (population 75,000), or Wawa, (population 3,000) at the halfway point between Sudbury and Thunder Bay.

Now, Sault Ste. Marie has the Essar Centre for the OHL Greyhounds (capacity 5,000), but obviously an arena of much larger capacity would be needed for something on an NHL level. Perhaps I'm thinking the AHL might be a good fit, with an arena of about 10,000 capacity. TD Place Arena in Ottawa seats 10,000, and was built for about $70 million - a number that I'm sure the mining companies of Northern Ontario could put up easily if they wanted to be major sponsors/co-owners.

It's all speculation, of course. Since the distance from Sudbury to Wawa is still 5 hours by car, getting there on a Tuesday night is not an option unless a high-speed commuter train network is set up through Northern Ontario. I'm actually kind of hoping development of the Ring of Fire mining region will help here, as many more tax dollars brought by many more people would be needed to fund public infrastructure such as that.

The total straight line distance between Thunder Bay and Sudbury is 657 KM as the crow flies, so based on a cost-per-kilometre of high speed rail of $25 million, $16.4 billion in investment would have to be made just on the railway to make that happen. But it would all be part of developing Northern Ontario - not just for the sake of a mid-level hockey team.

(I'm actually kind of rooting for global warming at this point, so more people would be forced northward and inland. lol)

I drove the north of Superior route & back last summer... not much between Wawa & Thunder Bay except forest & some port towns.

AHL would have to itself either shrink to a smaller degree or grow so large that it could afford northern Ontario sites.

Further- the CHL would have to abandon Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie... I just don't see them each having 2 competing hockey clubs. It does scuk that Thunder Bay is shut out of the CHL.

As for moving northward, I would if it made sense... except living in the GTA affords me far too many positives to outweigh.

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I think we also need to factor in density/sprawl as well as size of neighboring cities. "25 miles away" can mean a half-hour drive or a 3 hour drive, depending on where you are.

Also, as has been said, population isn't everything. Austin, TX is the 11th largest city in the United States, is part of the 35th largest MSA, and has the 16th largest GDP per capita in the US - but the proximity to San Antonio and Houston (and to a lesser extent, Dallas) means Austin isn't seeing major league sports any time soon.

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Realistically, you need to be in an area that has a population of about a half million people.

There are several exceptions to the rule (Green Bay, being one), but for the most part, that's really the very minimum in terms of bringing in one of the big four leagues to your area and expecting consistent turnout to be enough to profit. Different sports are different bears, too. It's easier to support a pro basketball team than a pro football or baseball team due to operation costs and such.

None of this is scientific on my part, and population is similar to inflation in that the numbers are always going to fluxuate, but I can't really think of a number of cities that have pro teams that don't have around that many people. I've spent most of my life in between a city that has enough growth to some day be a promising major league city, but that's still quite a ways off and only recently got a AAA baseball team (Reno, Nevada. Which is home to about a quarter of a million people), and a city that is barely teetering on the brink of being big enough to support a pro team, and that has traditionally had some problems (Sacramento, California. Just under, you guessed it, a half a million people), so this is mainly just observations from that.

Yup. So I think Northern Ontario as a whole, with about 700k, could make it work, given a lot of infrastructure investment intended to help the region grow, rather than just be part of supporting an AHL team.

You seem to have arrived at your pre-ordained conclusion. Saying that the area on the whole has about 700k people, but then admitting that the area on the whole is a widely separated (657 km as the crow flies) means you aren't really looking for the truth, just a validation of what you want to believe.

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Yep. All of Northern Ontario? Yeah, it has the raw numbers. It's also a MASSIVE region in terms of area, with a very spread out population. I remember driving to Winnipeg on a road trip years ago and finding myself just blown away at how far north and west Ontario actually stretches. No single community in the region is large enough to make it at even the AHL level, let alone at the NHL level.

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Yep. All of Northern Ontario? Yeah, it has the raw numbers. It's also a MASSIVE region in terms of area, with a very spread out population. I remember driving to Winnipeg on a road trip years ago and finding myself just blown away at how far north and west Ontario actually stretches. No single community in the region is large enough to make it at even the AHL level, let alone at the NHL level.

Well, I guess that means I'm rooting for global warming in northern Ontario.

Anyway, what about other cities? Another metro area I was thinking of was Victoria. It has 344k all on its own, and 750,000 on the island total, plus Vancouver right across the strait to tap into.

Still needs an expansion to the stadium, but they already have the Royals in the WHL and a 7,000-seater.

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Yep. All of Northern Ontario? Yeah, it has the raw numbers. It's also a MASSIVE region in terms of area, with a very spread out population. I remember driving to Winnipeg on a road trip years ago and finding myself just blown away at how far north and west Ontario actually stretches. No single community in the region is large enough to make it at even the AHL level, let alone at the NHL level.

Well, I guess that means I'm rooting for global warming in northern Ontario.

Anyway, what about other cities? Another metro area I was thinking of was Victoria. It has 344k all on its own, and 750,000 on the island total, plus Vancouver right across the strait to tap into.

Still needs an expansion to the stadium, but they already have the Royals in the WHL and a 7,000-seater.

How do the Royals draw? What percentage of those fans also attend Canucks games?

I'm not connecting the dots, Magnus. Do you see where I'm going?

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I've often wondered how Vancouver Island would do with a team in the NHL. As was stated above, there are 750,000 people on Vancouver Island, and it is a lot smaller than the Northern Ontario region, at about 290 miles in length. If it were to happen an arena would need to be built somewhere approximately half way between the two biggest cities on the Island, Victoria and Nanaimo. The reason I wonder about this is because I have asked the question of many people - how many Canuck games do you attend per year? The answer is somewhere between zero and ten on average. Then I ask - How many games would you attend if there were a team on the Island? The number goes up significantly. I believe an Island team would sellout a 20,000 seat arena on most nights. Also, I don't think you need to worry about Canuck fans on the Island - to see the Canucks you need to take a ferry which is more a nuisance than a convenience when it comes to seeing a sports event. Conversely, the same could be said about drawing fans from the mainland. In short - if a person can avoid the ferry, they will. But, it is not all about bums in seats. Corporate sponsors are huge when it comes to having a team - just ask the Vancouver Grizzlies. I don't think there are enough LARGE corporate sponsors on Vancouver Island or Northern Ontario.

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With the NFL at least; you could(last i heard) make money every week by having 0 attendance at every game so i dunno if green bay works.

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That's the other part of the equation. Now that it's clear we're talking about the NHL, you have to consider the number of potential corporate sponsors available as well as population and density.

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The highest level of hockey that Victoria/Vancouver Island will ever possibly see is the AHL. Actually, they should. They would be perfect for the Canucks. But the idea of them having an NHL team is laughable.

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Yep. All of Northern Ontario? Yeah, it has the raw numbers. It's also a MASSIVE region in terms of area, with a very spread out population. I remember driving to Winnipeg on a road trip years ago and finding myself just blown away at how far north and west Ontario actually stretches. No single community in the region is large enough to make it at even the AHL level, let alone at the NHL level.

I think it's an unofficial fact that driving across Ontario, in its entirety, is a longer drive than Toronto to Florida.

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