Relocation's Missing Piece

Originally Posted At: Guest Post


Updated: Feb 27, 2018


Relocation's Missing Piece

Note: This is a guest post from Corey Gavin of The Stadium Scout.

With the Super Bowl commencing around a week ago, and my hometown city of Philadelphia surviving a night of pure anarchy (or insanity, or complete and total annihilation. Any of those can work), I started to think about why Philadelphia has been completely entranced by the Eagles playoff run. Sometime later, after many late college nights, it hit me. Putting the lack of Superbowl trophies aside, the reason why every man, women, and child from East Passayunk to Overbrook are so smitten with the Eagles is because of one word, culture. 

Coming across the idea of culture, I began to research into what else in sports this phenomenon effects. During my search, I came across radio host Dan Le Batard, and his radio show (with a little help from a classmate.) In his show, Le Batard talks about the culture of sports in different U.S cities, and how the support of the teams varies by the city as a result. After hearing this, I was initially surprised as sports are something in my mind that has always seemed like a major part of every city in the U.S. However, as I began to better understand the idea Le Batard was presenting, I stumbled upon an even greater realization when comparing his ideas on culture to the culture I saw on the streets of Philly.  The lack of a developed sports culture in cities teams choose to relocate to is an unforeseen factor that has contributed to the apparent initial struggles of modern era franchises who have relocated.

Over the past 18 years, the sports world has seen 9 teams from the MLS, MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL leave their old digs in search of state of the art facilities, a new identity, and a larger revenue stream. While there have been some mitigating factors causing these relocations (defunct stadiums, bankruptcy, etc.) teams usually choose to leave rather than fix any problems, in order to get a step ahead of the competition. However, by doing this, teams insert themselves into cities that are either crowded with other teams (I think we can all guess where that is) or where sports are an afterthought, thus leaving these relocating teams without the support and the culture they had in their previous location. This has become readily apparent after analyzing the attendances of the relocated teams.

Using the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers as examples, each of these teams have ranked in the bottom third of attendance numbers in their respective leagues since their relocation.  In 2017 alone, the Rams and Chargers ranked 26thand 32ndin average attendance respectively, according to ESPN. While the Chargers lack of attendance can mainly be attributed to the lack of seating in their temporary home (The StubHub Center holds 27,000), both teams were still unable to sell out their stadiums, and given that both the Chargers and Rams were a fringe playoff and playoff team respectively, this is surprising due to football's immense popularity in the U.S. However, when adding culture to the mix, it is much easier to understand that these teams entered a packed city like LA and found themselves on the bottom of the popularity hierarchy. With so many other activities to do in Los Angeles, plus the fact that football hasn't been missing from the city for a long time, these teams had no type of culture to rely on and thus have run into many challenges post-relocation. (Fun fact, Fox had to hire people to "act" as Rams fans one weekend. Really, they did. It got that bad.)

From all of this, we can see that culture definitely deserves a greater consideration when teams look to relocate. While the teams who have relocated still have an uphill battle to create a new culture around their team, their actions can serve as a cautionary tale for more teams looking to relocate. Teams looking to make the switch will now hopefully turn their attention to less crowded markets which will ultimately help sports continue to be a mecca of entertainment.

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