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November 13, 2012

Bizball

Ranking 10 MLB Relocation and Expansion Markets Shows Why Either is Difficult

by Maury Brown

It seems that nearly every week, articles surrounding the potential relocation of the A’s and Rays surface. A panel looking into a potential San Jose relocation for the A’s has been gridlocked since 2009 (and remember, the A’s have been looking to move to San Jose for a heck of a lot longer than that). The Rays haven’t been far behind in their efforts to get out of Tropicana Field. Whether it’s the commute for fans to get to the domed stadium, the aesthetics, or the need to be closer to an urban core, it seems that Tampa Bay has been seeking a new ballpark for just as long. Relocation for these two clubs is crucial.

Another thing that comes up less frequently but has extra meaning going into 2013 is expansion. With the Astros moving into the AL West, the American League and National League will now be balanced at 15 clubs a piece. The problem is that 15 is an odd number, and as a result, interleague will become a daily affair. It’s unlikely that’s something that the league wanted, so getting to 32 clubs would take care of that matter. That would mean revenues spread thinner with two extra mouths to feed. Additionally, it’s no given that one or both wouldn’t be revenue-sharing takers, and trying to get ballparks built is no easy feat in this economy. So, 30 is a number that seems to suit the “Big Four” sports leagues in North America. The NBA has it. Ditto for the NHL. Currently, only the NFL—which has the advantage of being highly centralized (revenues are shared more evenly across the franchises) and exceptionally popular—is the exception at 32 clubs.

Of the four leagues, it is Major League Baseball that has gone the longest without expanding (1998). The NHL expanded in 2000 with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild, the NFL in 2002 with the Houston Texans, and the NBA in 2004 with the rechristened Charlotte Bobcats. If you do the math, you find that MLB’s hasn’t expanded in 14 years, the longest since the boom in the 1960s. That rapid period occurred shortly after Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham moved the Dodgers and Giants to the West Coast. The moves in 1957 by these two clubs showed that, with the advent of air travel, large markets west of the Mississippi that had never before been considered could be tapped. When coupled with the growth of television, untapped revenues could be accessed. The AL and NL were also very much separate leagues competing for these new markets, so it was a bit of a “gold rush.” Now, most all the prime large markets have been sucked up, and television, once simply an over-the-air matter, is a huge factor given regional sports networks and their expansive territories. Today, it’s more or less a case of major markets being sucked up (although, as we’ll show, there’s the potential for at least one to be successful).

Below is a listing of clubs that were either part of expansion or went through relocation, along with their respective leagues, from the time the Dodgers and Giants relocated until now.

Expansion or Relocation in the Modern Era

Team

Year

League

Angels

1961

AL

Senators relocate, become Twins

1961

AL

Senators (Part II)

1961

AL

Mets

1962

NL

Astros

1962

NL

Milwaukee Braves relocate to Atlanta

1966

NL

KC Athletics relocate to Oakland

1968

AL

Padres

1969

NL

Expos

1969

NL

Royals

1969

AL

Pilots/Brewers

1969

AL

Second Senators relocate to Arlington (Rangers)

1972

AL

Mariners

1977

AL

Blue Jays

1977

AL

Rockies

1993

NL

Marlins

1993

NL

D-Backs

1998

NL

Devil Rays

1998

AL

Expos relocate to DC (Nationals)

2004

NL

When ranking markets for potential relocation or expansion, it makes sense to look at the most recent move of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. This was the last time the league took a hard look at markets that might wish to be home to an MLB club.

In early November 2001, MLB attempted to downsize the league from 30 teams to 28 through “contraction.” The Expos had been languishing in Montreal for a number of reasons, and with MLB reportedly losing money, they looked to downsizing as a way to minimize losses. Since 29 teams would have been lopsided, the Minnesota Twins, through owner Carl Pohlad, threw their hat into the ring for contraction.

The problem was (and still is) that markets without Major League Baseball clamor for it, if opportunity knocks. After contraction was out, relocation was explored. Given the legal wrangling and want for MLB, markets came calling for a relocated Expos, and with it, we got the Washington Nationals.

Since then, the Marlins have used relocation as a method to feel out the Portland and San Antonio markets (though that was more an attempt to leverage a new stadium out of the South Florida market—and it worked).

Let’s say that baseball was going to get serious about relocation or expansion; how would we go about rating the potential suitors?

The methodology I’m going to use is based on what MLB requested of markets when the Expos were up for relocation. (As a matter of disclosure, I worked with the city of Portland in 2000-01, which is where they ultimately sent the league this fully-vetted document.)

The following information was used to derive rankings:

  • 2010 Census population (for international markets, other sources have been used).
  • Household median income based on census.
  • Distance to the nearest existing MLB market or markets (relates to cannibalizing fan base at the attendance and television level).
  • Number of existing professional sport franchises within the market. This derives the population base per franchise. The more franchises, the more diluted the market becomes in terms of fans for season tickets and corporate sponsorships.
  • Television markets are defined not only by Designated Market Area (DMA) but by looking at MLB’s television territories, which are vastly larger than television DMA. Any team placed within the U.S. would carve up one or more clubs’ television territory. As we saw with the relocation of the Expos to DC, that aspect has profound impacts.
  • The Arbitron Radio DMA is provided to show strength of radio audience.
  • For relocation, possible interim facilities are provided. An expansion would most likely not require an interim facility while a new, state-of-the-art MLB stadium was being built. A listing of how many Fortune 500, 500 Global, or 1000 companies are within a market is provided. These companies would be key for sponsorships, possible naming rights, and corporate blocks of tickets which are becoming more and more common for lower bowl sales.
  • International Markets do not have media rankings, but other forms of information are provided.

10. Norfolk, VA
2010 Census Population (data): 242,628 (Rank: 79th)
Median Household Income (2006-2010): $42,677            
Distance from Closest MLB Market(s): 143 miles (Nationals), 165 miles (Orioles)
MLB Television Territories Impacted: Nationals and Orioles
Television information (data): (Ranks 44th by DMA), 709,730 television households, 0.622 percent of total US TV households
Radio Information (data): Arbitron Ranking: 44th (Metro 12+ Population: 1,367,100)
Number of Major League Teams: 0
Interim/New Facility location: Harbor Park (upgraded from 35,000 to 38,000-seat stadium including 60 - 70 luxury suites).
Population base per franchise (including MLB team): 242,628
Number of Fortune 1000 Companies (data): 1

Pros
In 2003, Norfolk appeared as a possible relocation candidate for the Montreal Expos and a possible stop-gap measure for Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos. Angelos saw a team in Washington, D.C. or Northern Virginia as unacceptable. Norfolk, it seemed, was far enough away from Baltimore.

Norfolk, at the time, had a funding model on the table that could be leveraged, and baseball boosters collected deposits for season tickets, should a team arrive.

Cons
Think of Norfolk, and that old real estate adage comes to mind: location, location, location. The problem is that it’s a bad one.

When the Expos were relocated to Washington, D.C., the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network was created, thus placing Norfolk in both the Orioles’ and Nationals’ broadcast territory. As it stands, Norfolk is now too close to the D.C. and Baltimore markets. While there will be cannibalization no matter where a new MLB team is placed (with some international locations the possible exception), Norfolk would be dealing with Peter Angelos just after MLB dealt with Angelos regarding the relocation of the Expos.

9. San Juan, Puerto Rico
2010 Census Population (data): 381,931
Distance to Nearest MLB Market: 1,038 miles (Miami)
MLB Television Territories Impacted: None
Median Household Income: $27,017
Television Information: An estimated 1.1 million households exist in Puerto Rico, 98 percent of which have at least one television set (source Museum of Broadcast Communications)
Radio Information: N/A
Number of Major League Teams: 0
Interim/New Facility Location: Hiram Bithorn Stadium (seating capacity: 18,000)
Population Base per Franchise (including MLB team): 2,450,292
Number of Fortune 500 Global Companies: 1

Pros
Hiram Bithorn Stadium wound up being “home” to the Montreal Expos for parts of two seasons (2003 and 2004, during which they played a total of 44 games). It has also been used to host the World Baseball Classic and an Opening Day game in 2001 between the Blue Jays and Rangers. MLB has been quick to pull San Juan into discussions anytime that relocation has been the subject. No team claims Puerto Rico as their television territory. To the best of our knowledge, television deals in Puerto Rico are centralized across MLB.

Cons
The biggest issues with San Juan include upgrades to Hiram Bithorn to get it anywhere near MLB-ready, the low median income, and the lack of a corporate base. Add in travel concerns (it would be the furthest south of any MLB team), and San Juan becomes a great location for MLB events but is unlikely to be a permanent home.

8. Montreal, Canada
Population (2006): 1,854,442 (proper, ranks as 2nd largest city in Canada), Metropolitan area: 3,635,571
Distance to Nearest MLB Market(s): Boston (253 miles), New York (329 miles), Philadelphia (388 miles)
MLB Television Territories Impacted: Blue Jays
Median Household Income: $47,500 (Canadian)
Television Information: Second-largest television market in Canada (DMA figure unavailable) (source Museum of Broadcast Communications)
Number of Major League Teams: 3 (NHL: Canadians, CFL: Alouettes, MLS: Impact)
Interim/New Facility Location: Olympic Stadium (seating capacity – 46,500)
Population Base per Franchise (including MLB team): 1,211,857
Number of Fortune 500 Global Companies: 4

Pros
Let’s face it; it’s easier to go someplace you already know than someplace where everything is an unknown. With that, the return of MLB to Montreal should never be left off the relocation/expansion list. While it’s a foregone conclusion that calling Olympic Stadium any kind of permanent home for a return to Montreal is out of the question, it could serve as an interim facility. Given the “what if?” that came with the 1994 strike, the Expos’ story could have turned out entirely different. The team, firing on all cylinders, seemed playoff bound.

Cons
When the Expos were snatched from Montreal and sent off to D.C., the chief complaint by MLB was the lack of support. That wasn’t entirely Montreal’s fault and falls on ownership (namely Jeffery Loria) to a certain extent, but the ability to garner any type of public funding for a new “Labatt’s Stadium” would be nearly impossible. Couple that with a lukewarm fan base, MLB’s memory of how international exchange rates created problems just after 2000 (although that exchange rate certainly works in Canada’s favor now), and the near impossibility of garnering public funding for stadium development, and Montreal may have trouble ever getting back on MLB’s radar.

7. Monterrey, Mexico
Population: 1.1 million (proper), Metropolitan area: 3.8 million
Distance to Nearest MLB Market: 412 miles (Houston)
MLB Television Territories Impacted: None
Median Household Income: (2000 figures) Valle region: $11,300, Inner city: $8,700
Television Information: Second-largest market in Mexico
Number of Major League Teams: 0
Interim/New Facility Location: Estadio Monterrey (seating capacity: 26,000)
Population Base per Franchise (including MLB team): 2,450,292
Number of Fortune 500 Global Companies: 0

Pros
Monterrey has hosted more than one MLB game. The Dodgers and Brewers played there in 1991, the Twins and Braves in 1993.

While Monterrey doesn’t have a single Fortune 1000 company that it can call its own, with NAFTA, Monterrey is an industrial hub hosting a laundry list of U.S. company presences. American Express, Amway, Baker & McKenzie, Bank of America, Carrier, Caterpillar, Chrysler, Donnelly, GE, GM, Honeywell, IBM, John Deere, JC Penney, Kohler, Korn/Ferry International, KPMG, Kimberly Clark, Lucent, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Pinkerton, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Trane, Toyota, Visteon, Wayerhaeuser, and York all call the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon home. Fortune ranks Monterrey as the best Latin American city in which to conduct business.

Throw in Mexican industrialist Carlos Bremer, who along with Jose Maiz worked during 2003 to try and get MLB to host 22 MLB games in Estadio Monterrey, and Monterrey becomes the prohibitive favorite should MLB consider expanding or relocating teams to Mexico.

Cons
Much like Montreal, international exchange rates would play a factor, should MLB look to relocate or expand internationally. Monterrey knows full well about how the rise and fall in currency can impact matters. Maiz mentioned this in 2004 to MLB.com: "In 1994, we applied to get games played here on a permanent basis, but in December 1994, there was a big devaluation of the money here," Maiz said. "I wrote a letter immediately to the Major Leagues to tell them to retire my proposal because the country was not in a condition to host a team.”

Another issue is the amount of discretionary income available to those in Monterrey. Mexico is broken into three “zones” of the republic, with Monterrey falling into “Zone B”: the middle of the economic classes. Still, the average household income is deemed to be well below U.S. standards. That creates sustainability concerns.

Monterrey is a possibility but may be a decade off.

6. San Antonio, TX
Population (data): 1,359,758
Distance to Nearest MLB Market: Houston (197 miles), Arlington (278 miles)
Median Household Income (2006-2010): $43,152
MLB Television Territories Impacted (data): Astros, Rangers
Television information (data): (Ranks 36th in DMA) 881,050 television households, 0.772 of total US TV households
Radio Information (data): (San Antonio only) Arbitron ranking: 28th (Metro 12+ population: 1,858,500)
Number of Major League Teams: 1 (NBA: San Antonio Spurs)
Interim/New Facility location: Nelson W. Wolff Stadium (seating capacity: 9,500)
Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 679,879
Number of Fortune 1000 Companies: 8

Pros
Pushed up against yet another failed bid for stadium funding in 2006, the Marlins decided to look at other markets, including San Antonio. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, a big baseball booster in San Antonio (note that the Mission’s ballpark is named after him), threw his political weight behind the attempt to work a deal that might be attractive to Marlins brass. That, in and of itself, is always a plus for any market. Judge Wolff’s political moves earned San Antonio more than a passing glance. Add in the lack of strong objections from the Spurs at the time, and San Antonio has possibilities.

Where San Antonio might fall short is that it is a small market. In 2006, the plans were to try and place the ballpark closer to Austin (80 miles away), where a larger population could be drawn from. That was a double-edged consideration—a more people, good; away from an urban core, bad. Still, it showed that San Antonio was at least trying to make it happen.

Cons
As mentioned, San Antonio is a small market, which hurts their chances. The small DMA adds a further crimp and was mentioned as a negative in 2006 by Marlins president David Samson. Throw in the fact that the whole of Texas is split up by the Rangers and Astros, and San Antonio becomes a third wheel, slicing up the television market further.

San Antonio could happen, but for it to work, MLB would have to get cozy with the idea of a ballpark outside of the urban core. It’s hard to see MLB going along with that for a relocation candidate, let alone expansion.

5. Las Vegas, NV
Population (data): 589,317
Distance to Nearest MLB Market: Los Angeles (270 miles), Anaheim (222 miles)
MLB Television Territories Impacted (data): Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Athletics, Giants, D-Backs
Median Household Income (2006-2010): $54,334
Television Information (data): (Ranks 43rd in DMA) 718,990 television households, 0.630 percent of all US TV households
Radio Information (data): Arbitron ranking: 32nd (Metro 12+ population - 1,656,200)
Number of Major League Teams: 0
Interim/New Facility Location: Cashman Field (seating capacity – 9,334)
Population Base per Franchise (with MLB team): 589,317
Number of Fortune 1000 Companies: 7

Pros
Las Vegas was one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, although with the downturn in the economy and Vegas being tourist-based, the growth has slowed some. At some point, however, Las Vegas seems like a destination for a major sports league franchise. One thing seems certain: whichever league gets into Vegas first will have no problem selling suites. Saying that you own a suite is one thing. Saying that you own a suite in Las Vegas is another. It’s an entertainment magnet.

In 2004, Vegas became the hip location to talk about for the Expos. If D.C. failed, it seemed that the idea of legalized gambling was no longer a prohibitive factor. Mayor Oscar Goodman got MLB brass to come out and talk stadium specifics, but “specifics” never seemed to come from Goodman. Vegas would have to wait.

Cons
As is the case with any market, the primary issue is funding a stadium with as little input from the would-be owners as possible. As mentioned, Mayor Goodman talked of a scheme to get a stadium developed with little-to-no public subsidy. That model was not completely made public, but in an interview with Lou Weisbach of Stadium Capital Financing, it seems that a large part of the Vegas effort was the use of Weisbach’s Equity Seats Rights model. Whether it was the idea of the seat rights program or the fact that Goodman wasn’t keen on coming up with other public subsidies (something that other developers of entertainment locations in Vegas have had to do without), MLB talked about Vegas’ possibilities, but the rubber never hit the road.

Beyond those issues, while Vegas is growing like a weed, there’s really nothing more than tumbleweeds outside of Vegas proper. As the ranks above show, Vegas has an exceptionally small television market size. With television becoming a key revenue driver, the small DMA works against Vegas. Throw in a dose of Pete Rose for good measure, and MLB may not be the first in the door in Las Vegas. Oh, and talk about television market cannibalization issues. Vegas is arcanely split six ways. Negotiating that would be interesting.

4. Charlotte, NC
Population (data): 751,087
Distance to Nearest MLB Market: Atlanta (224 miles)
MLB Television Territories Impacted (data): Nationals, Orioles
Median Household Income (2006-2010): $52,446
Television Information (data): (Ranks 25th in DMA) 1,136,420 television households, 0.995 percent of all US TV households
Radio Information (data): Arbitron ranking: 24th (Metro 12+ population: 2,071,600, which includes Gastonia-Rock Hill)
Number of Major League Teams: 2 (NBA: Bobcats, NFL: Panthers)
Interim/New Facility Location: Knights Stadium (seating capacity: 10,002)
Population Base per Franchise (with MLB team): 250,363
Number of Fortune 1000 Companies: 12

Pros
Charlotte’s greatest strength lies in its market size (both local and regional), as well as the exceptionally strong corporate base in and around the city. The median family income is strong as well, ranking highest on this list. Charlotte was repeatedly mentioned as a possible relocation destination for the Expos and as recently as 2005 was on the “Marlins Relocation Tour.”

I should mention that you could flip a coin with my no. 3 and no. 4 in this ranking. Both of their fortunes are tied to the political landscape at any given time a relocation or expansion was to arrive. Both markets have very different strengths and weaknesses that could play a factor at any given time.

Cons
Charlotte’s fortunes are negatively impacted by, of all teams, the Washington Nationals, who play nearly 400 miles away. The relocation of the Expos to D.C. was tied to a regional sports network (MASN) for Orioles owner Peter Angelos. That means the broadcast territory for the Nationals and the Orioles reaches to Charlotte, which also means it may be a good long while before MLB has any notion of trying to cannibalize a television market that was hard fought for by Angelos. Add in the fact that the NBA Hornets relocated to New Orleans when an arena didn’t arrive, thus causing the city to scramble to get a new arena built and get an NBA team back in 2005, and going after public dollars would be a tough go. Throw in the Carolina Panthers for good measure, and suddenly with an MLB team in the market you’re looking at a population base per franchise of 250,363—a tight squeeze in the market.

3. Portland, OR
Population (data): 593,820
Distance to Nearest MLB Market: Seattle (200 miles)
MLB Television Territories Impacted (data): Mariners
Median Household Income (2006-2010): $48,831
Television Information (data): (Ranks 22nd in DMA) 1,182,180 television households, 1.035 percent of US TV households
Radio Information (data): Arbitron ranking: 23rd (Metro 12+ population: 2,152,300)
Number of Major League Teams: 2 (NBA: Trail Blazers, MLS: Timbers)
Interim/New Facility location: PGE Park (seating capacity: 20,000, expandable to 25,000)
Population base per franchise (with MLB team): 197,940
Number of Fortune 1000 Companies: 5

Pros
Portland worked hard in 2003 to come up with a financing plan and actually pulled off state funding that never sunsets. With Oregon having a state income tax, the law on the books provides up to $150 million in funding by earmarking the income taxes the players (both home and away) and executives have to pay off the debt service. Portland also has the fully vetted finance plan they submitted to MLB as a jumping-off point. The plan outlines aspects such as local funding concepts, possible site locations, and 2003 figures for construction costs, which could be reused to calculate costs at a later time.

Portland is home to both Nike and the North American headquarters of adidas, making a sponsorship tug-of-war a possibility. (Would Nike allow “adidas Field” in their own backyard?)

Cons
While Portland can siphon population from Washington State’s Clark County, go much further north than Longview (approx 45 miles away) and it’s solid Mariners territory. Indeed, Portland is heavily involved in the Mariners’ marketing plans. A team in Portland would not sit well with the AL team to the north.

Other negatives revolve around the market itself. While it is the largest market with only one major league franchise (with the exception of Salem and Eugene, 100 miles to the south), there are pockets of rural area all around the city. Additionally, the small number of large corporations is not a strong point for Portland.

While PGE Park could be used as an interim facility, it’s an exceptional longshot now that it has been converted into a soccer-only venue. Getting into PGE Park means getting around MLS, and given the immense popularity of soccer in Portland, the odds of that are exceptionally long.

While a considerable percentage of fans from Portland make the 200-mile trip to Seattle to get their MLB fix, the market would have to overachieve from an attendance perspective beyond any honeymoon effect. Plus, in 2001 Portland was looking at an open air facility. While weather in Portland is some of the best in the country from July to September, spring can bring constant rain. Without a retractable roof, walk-up would be dinged considerably. In a small market, this would be something MLB would be looking to avoid.

2. Sacramento, CA
Population (data): 472,178
Distance to Nearest MLB Market: 81 miles (Oakland), 88 miles (San Francisco)
MLB Television Territories Impacted (data): Athletics, Giants
Median Household Income (2006-2010): $50,267
Television Information (data): Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto (Ranks 20th by DMA), 1,387,710 television households, 1.215 percent of US TV households
Radio Information (data): (Sacramento only) Arbitron ranking: 27th (Metro 12+ population: 1,887,800)
Number of Major League Teams: 1 (NBA: Sacramento Kings)
Interim/New Facility Location: Raley Stadium (max seating capacity: 14,111)
Population Base per Franchise (including MLB team): 236,089
Number of Fortune 1000 Global Companies: 1

Pros
Slowly but surely, Sacramento has continued to grow in population, and there is that “just maybe” element to the market. Its biggest plus, however, is that it’s within Oakland’s current broadcast territory. That makes a possible A’s relocation much easier to deal with. Even though the Giants call Sacramento part of their broadcast territory, the idea of having the A’s move out of the Bay Area and dropping the whole “move to San Jose” effort would seemingly make the Giants far more amicable to relocation. And while there has never been a direct correlation between minor league attendance and how a major league team has fared after arriving (they are, after all, very different products), the Rivercats of the PCL have been a consistent and steady draw, showing that folks in Sacramento love baseball. Reno isn’t exactly close, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for those in the Biggest Little City to make the trek to Sacramento in the summer to take in games.

Cons
Having only one Fortune 1000 company creates sponsorship issues, especially when you consider the NBA’s presence. Certainly the Maloofs, who own the Kings, would be none too pleased with the idea of an MLB team in their small market. The brothers have been working for years to land a new arena for the Kings, and relocation out of the market continues to be discussed. A push for MLB would cloud that effort, and it seems a given that they would pull every string they could find to thwart an effort.

1. Northern New Jersey
Population: The seven counties that are included in Northern New Jersey have a total population of 3,492,590, as of the 2000 U.S. Census (source)
Distance to Nearest MLB Market: New York (Bronx) (22 miles from Newark), Flushing (17.5 miles from Newark), Philadelphia (85 miles from Newark)
MLB Television Territories Impacted (data): Yankees, Mets
Median Household Income (2006-2010): $35,659 (Based on Newark)
Television Information (data): (New York) (Ranks 1st in DMA) 7,384,340 television households, 6.468 percent of US TV households
Radio Information (data): Arbitron ranking: 1st (New York Metro 12+ population: 15,867,400)
Number of Major League Teams (NY plus NJ): 10 (NHL: Devils, NHL: Islanders, NHL: Rangers, MLS: Red Bulls, NBA: Nets, NBA: New York Knicks, MLB: Yankees, MLB: Mets, NFL: Jets, NFL: Giants, plus the WNBA’s Liberty)
Interim/New Facility Location: Unknown.
Population Base per Franchise (with MLB team): 349,259
Number of Fortune 1000 Companies in NY (source): 50

Pros
It’s amazing given the large number of major league franchises that you still wind up with the New York/New Jersey area with plenty of populace, corporate base, and television and radio strength to support another. That’s why Northern New Jersey is the number one relocation/expansion market for MLB. It’s someplace that, if MLB’s owners were somehow willing to allow it to happen, the Rays could potentially relocate to. Since there are caveats with every available market out there, why not go where the strongest chance of success is available?

Cons
The biggest (and probably only) thing blocking a third MLB team in the New York area are the Yankees and Mets (and, yes, most likely the Phillies). The heel-digging would be tremendous on the part of these clubs, and the compensation to placate two or three clubs would be tremendous. Other than that issue (and yes, it’s more than an 800-pound gorilla, to be sure), the only other issue might be an interim stadium (you could play at the Trenton Thunder’s Waterfront Park, but it only has a seating capacity of 6,500). Still, that issue of getting around the Yankees, Mets, and Phillies is massive. The political dance would be one for the ages to pull off a team in Northern New Jersey.

****

Conclusions
They say the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, so when it comes to the relocation of the A’s and Rays, let’s face it: no market looks great these days. All have caveats. All have something that might make you say it could only work five or ten years from now. So those clubs, while highly frustrated, seem to be sticking close to home; they understand their markets better than the untested.

When it comes to considering expansion, MLB isn’t even close to it. With it seeming likely that the Rays and A’s hang on to see if something crops up for relocation in their backyard, then none of these markets are likely to be tested anytime soon.

Still, the exercise in examining them yields interesting information for the future. At some point, MLB will seriously consider expansion. That will most likely coincide with revenues coming in flat or declining for the league (the expansion fees would offset a decline in revenue growth). Those days aren’t even close to being here. Expansion or relocation will just have to wait. Say hello again to “30”.

Maury Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Maury's other articles. You can contact Maury by clicking here

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