By Ross Kelly
There has been lots of talk over the past few weeks regarding expansion or relocation for all of the Big Four. Whether it be stadium issues regarding the Milwaukee Bucks or Arizona Coyotes, possible expansion for MLB, or the NFL-to-LA stadium situation; it’s pretty apparent that some franchise movement will take place over the next couple of years. While it’s clear that markets that currently have teams have better chances of attracting other teams, we shouldn’t totally ignore those cities that currently don’t have any franchises. Here is my list of cities without current teams that would be a best fit for Big Four franchises.
5. Louisville, KY
Along with Indiana and North Carolina, Kentucky is known as one of the preeminent “basketball states” in the country. But unlike those first two, Kentucky doesn’t have any pro sports teams. They, of course, do have the University of Louisville and UK but there’s still room for a pro sports franchise. Louisville used to have the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA but they never merged with the NBA and ended up folding. With so many die-hard basketball fans in the state, I think it’s just a matter of time before an NBA franchise ends up in Louisville, provided they can secure an arena. What basketball is to the state of Kentucky is on par to what football is to the state of Alabama, but Louisville is three times bigger than any city in Alabama so they get the edge.
4. Des Moines, IA
Twice this decade Des Moines, IA has been named as the “Best Place for Business” by Forbes magazine. So why isn’t a sports franchise located there? With over 200,000 people it is bigger than Salt Lake City and Green Bay so it could feasibly support a team. Baseball and the Midwest have always gone hand-in-hand so hopefully the MLB will look into this market one day because Hollywood already has. Whenever you bring up Iowa and sports, you have to talk about Field of Dreams and the baseball scenes from that movie were shot in Dubuque County, IA. That field remains a tourist attraction and would be a nice added place of interest for visitors to the city. Plus, I would personally get a kick out of all the novice sports commentators and broadcasters of the world mispronouncing “Des Moines.”
3. Virginia Beach, VA
Of the 22 most populous states in America, 21 of them have at least two sports teams from the Big Four. Virginia, which is the 12th most populous state, has zero pro sports teams and that needs to change. Yes, I know about the DMV area but Virginia needs one to call its own. Virginia Beach is the largest city in the state with nearly half a million people and that seems like the logical spot for a franchise. Virginia Beach is also home to miles of beaches and hundreds of hotels along its oceanfront so it’s very attractive to visitors as well. With a lengthy list of big leaguers who hail from Virginia, it seems only fitting that one day an MLB team will matriculate its way to Virginia Beach.
2. Austin, TX
Of course everyone knows that Austin in a college town and UT is king but Austin, and it’s nearly 1 million inhabitants, could certainly support a pro team as well. They are actually the most populous city in the US without a major pro sports team. Austin is known as “The Live Music Capital of the World” so just imagine the kind of in-stadium musical performances (which are becoming commonplace) that a team could put together. As someone who’s from a neighboring state of Texas, I can tell you first-hand that the people of Austin, and Texas in general, would like everyone to know that they are more than just westerns and rodeos and Austin’s music scene would be a nice backdrop to a sports franchise. Any sport would make sense there but with this being Texas and all, football seems like the most logical choice.
1. Las Vegas, NV
The obvious choice for number one, Vegas has been brought up recently as a possible destination for a future NHL team. With the Coyotes having lease issues with Glendale, AZ; why not leave one desert for another? Of the four major sports, the NBA seems the most likely to put a team in Vegas as they’ve already done business with the city before as the 2007 NBA All-Star Game was held there. Also, commissioner Adam Silver has been outspoken in his support of gambling and thinks it should be more mainstream and the pro sports-gambling relationship seems to be the biggest holdup from putting a team there. I think there is a domino effect when it comes to a pro sports team in Vegas and once a league’s stance on sports gambling softens, then the walls will come down and a team will end up there.