Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New Study Says Tampa Bay's Sports Market is Already Over-Extended

Thanks to @TBBaseballMkt for passing along a good update to the disposable income issues this blog has tracked for years.

The Tampa Bay Business Journal's network composed a list of 83 North American markets and their abilities support new - or their existing - sports teams, based on personal income levels in the market.

I used a 2011 study to write why the Rays wouldn't be moving to frequently-mentioned cities such as Nashville or Portland since the markets were already over-extended.  The 2015 version of the study indicates they still couldn't support a new team (just like Charlotte, San Antonio, Indianapolis, etc).

On the other end of the spectrum, the study suggests Montreal would be MLB's most logical expansion/relocation market.  Its available income in the immediate metro area suggests the city could afford to support a MLB team in addition to its existing NHL and MLS franchises.

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This study is not without flaws - it defines the Tampa Bay market too narrowly, for instance.  It didn't include Sarasota (and presumably Manatee County), even though many of the residents there can reach the Trop in 15-30 minutes.

But the study suggests Tampa Bay is running a personal income deficit and cannot afford to support three major sports teams.  It's certainly not the first time questions about the market's pro sports capacity have come up and you can count that it won't be the last either.

As TBBJ's Wade Tyler Millward writes, MLB could potentially improve its situation by moving the Rays to franchise-poor markets with available income such as Las Vegas, Hartford, or Virginia Beach:
Mexico City and Havana are possibilities if MLB tries to expand into Latin America. Last year, 23 percent of players came from Latin America, mainly from Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba. MLB has not pursued this option because of income disparity between North America and the rest of the hemisphere, Thomas said.

New York-New Jersey and Los Angeles-Anaheim residents make enough to support a third MLB franchise, but the reality of existing teams protesting more competition makes those areas a slim chance. Their residents make, respectively, $787 billion and $345 billion more than is needed to support their major sport teams.


  1. No matter if the study did not include Sarasota or Manatee County, bottom line, attendance is a good indication of the income deficit.

    Regarding cities that are well positioned to get a MLB team, Manfred was clear in his comments. Canada and Mexico are the two markets/countries that are on his list. For now, US cities have very little probability to get a team considering the size of the remaining markets, and the potential conflicts with existing teams market (TV rights).

    And so far, only Montreal demonstrated a well organized group of people (mayor, investors, fans, media). A formal detailed plan/proposal to MLB will be released within the next 10-11 months (before the beginning of MLB 2016 season). And it will include a stadium plan of course.

    Mayor Coderre will meet Manfred in the next few weeks (or days) to layout the strategy, and update the Commissionner on what are the next steps.

    Stay Tuned!

  2. This has always seemed like the most plausible argument to me...

    It's also the one that has been brought up the least, because no city or fanbase wants to be told that it may not be able to supporting their team(s).

  3. News to Palma Ceia, South Tampa, Bayshore, Avila, Old Northeast, and Brightwaters: the Tampa Bay area is not as wealthy as it thinks it is. And the inequality/mobility statistics are not trending favorably.

  4. The study uses the US Census' and Canadian Census' definitions of a city's metropolitan area. If you want to say that the Tampa-St. Pete metropolitan area is too narrow, then you have to say the same about all the other markets as well.

    No matter how you slice it, this area is weak in disposable income when compared to the other North American markets. Even though Florida has no individual income tax...

    1. The whole "no income tax" thing re: Florida is largely a red herring too -- we get taxed less at the most basic level, sure, but we also make less money on average than a majority of states.

  5. I'm not sure, but it seems that the study does not take into account the varying price levels between areas and regions. It's cheaper to live in The South/Florida/Tampa Bay than other parts of the nation, or parts of Canada. That means the same TPI can be stretched further in Tampa Bay than in LA or, I would guess, Montreal.

    I think that Tampa Bay probably still has a deficit if this was taken into account - but maybe not as much. And more importantly, it means that we can't necessarily trust the ordering of the cities based on TPI.

    This is an interesting piece, but I would like to see what the same study looks like in 5-10 years. With Vinik's downtown plans and the growth that Tampa Bay has been seeing, maybe the deficit shrinks a good bit. Luckily, the Rays aren't able to leave anytime soon so we shall see. Come 2027, if Montreal doesn't already have an expansion team, and the deficit is still large, Tampa Bay can say goodbye...

    1. There's no way that this study doesn't account for cost-of-living differences. Any study about varying disposable income levels would have to take this into account to reach any meaningful conclusions. Otherwise we are talking about useless pseudo-statistics.

    2. Okay, show me where it says it does. I can't find it.