In the past two days, we compared the 32 NFL venues, by division – based on the size of their Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), and then we compared the Green Bay geographical area to some others. Today’s topic is which cities are most likely to gain an NFL team, and which ones are susceptible to losing their teams.
After a substantial period of stability, in the past two years three NFL teams have either moved or announced they are moving to another locale: St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland. While only one or two other NFL cities are in imminent danger of losing their teams, as populations shift – and especially where they are in decline – over the next decade or two, up to half a dozen current NFL cities will be fighting to keep their team. Green Bay will not be among these cities.
Most Likely to Lose an NFL Team
Here are some cities that would seem to be in jeopardy of losing their NFL teams in the future. I’ve also included some info on the three teams that recently lost or are about to lose their teams.
- Buffalo – 50th biggest Metropolitan Statistical Area and losing population
- New Orleans – 46th biggest MSA
- Cleveland – 32nd biggest MSA, and lost 1 percent of its city’s population in just six years
- St. Louis – 20th biggest MSA and not thriving, with an MSA growth rate of 0.7 percent
- Oakland – though part of the San Francisco MSA, the city’s 2015 population of 415,000 makes it the 45th largest U.S. City, and only the eighth largest in California – and its population is declining
- San Diego – 17th biggest MSA, and with a healthy MSA growth rate of 7.2 percent – it was the San Diego voters’ choice to not fund a new stadium that doomed this franchise
Though only 1.1 million people reside in the Buffalo MSA, the area has a loyal and rabid fan base, perhaps second only to Green Bay’s – though Pittsburgh also must be in this conversation.
Cleveland is stagnant, much like St. Louis was when it lost its team. Though the NFL MSA with the biggest recent population loss is Pittsburgh, that team also has a very loyal fan base as well as a long and esteemed history.
The NFC has a considerable advantage over the AFC when it comes to tenure. Pittsburgh is the oldest AFC team, having been around since 1933. In the NFC, the Arizona/Chicago Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Giants, and Lions all joined by 1930. The Packers are the oldest NFL team never to have moved and never to have changed their name.
Most Likely to Acquire an NFL Team
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Though Riverside has the country’s 13th largest MSA, it’s too close, only 59 miles, to two-team Los Angeles. San Diego is likely to someday snare another franchise, though St. Louis is not. Las Vegas, of course, has succeeded in abducting the Raiders, though the team is not expected to make the move until 2020, when the new stadium should be completed in Nevada.
With its fantastic growth rate, Austin should be high on the list of future NFL locales. If not Austin, then San Antonio, which is only 80 miles away.
Sacramento is 87 miles from San Francisco, while Orlando, which is growing more than twice as fast, is 85 miles from Tampa, 141 from Jacksonville, and 235 miles from Miami.
All of the above does not take into account that the NFL might be interested in establishing teams in non-American cities, such as London, Munich, Mexico City, and Toronto. This does not appear to be an imminent plan, however.
While I’ve approached the topic from the perspective of populations, the attitudes of the NFL have a huge bearing in who stays and who leaves. By the NFL, I mean Roger Goodell and his group of bureaucrats, and of course the owners of the current teams.
A more significant factor as to what cities acquire, keep, or lose an NFL team is the greed of the NFL and its owners. When it comes to team owners keeping teams from small – and usually less lucrative – SMAs, the pattern is quite pronounced. Cases in point: St. Louis, the nation’s 20th biggest SMA, and San Diego, the 17th biggest MSA, both are moving or have moved to the second biggest MSA.
Final Thought: it utterly amazes me that the splendor and newness of one’s stadium seems to be more important to the NFL than almost any other factor. Fortunately, on this basis, too, Green Bay is secure, as it has one of the largest, newest (major additions and refurbishing), and most beautiful stadiums in the league.
Check back tomorrow for Part 4: Does Fan Base Size Make Success on the Field More Likely?