5 Pro Sports Towns Doing Just Fine Without The NFL
A National Football League franchise is not only a civic status symbol, but a way of grabbing your town some air time and -- potentially -- some cash. Last year alone, the NFL produced $9.5 billion in revenue. That's $2 billion more than the $7.5 billion produced by Major League Baseball over the same span and more than the revenue produced by the NCAA ($5.3 billion) and NASCAR ($4.1 billion) combined. Its television revenue is slated to rise from an average of $4 billion a year to $5 billion annually as new contracts kick in. The networks are more than happy to pay after 31 of the 32 most-watched television shows in the fall of 2012 were NFL games.
A spot in the NFL's big game comes at a cost, though. Ask Bills fans in Buffalo, whose team ships one home game a year to Toronto and forced local government to shell out $200 million for stadium renovations just to get the team to stay in town for eight more years. Ask fans in Minnesota how psyched they felt at this time roughly two years ago, when Vikings management was threatening to move the team to Los Angeles before finally getting the state to fund a new stadium.
Ask Buccaneers fans in Tampa, who have their team's home games regularly pulled from television. Ask Jaguars fans in Jacksonville, who are about to lose a home game per season to exhibition games in London. Ask Falcons fans in Atlanta, who just had their team owner ask them to replace the team's stadium -- built less than 20 years ago and renovated less than a decade ago for more than $200 million -- with another building paid for with $200 million to $300 million in tax dollars. Ask Chargers fans in San Diego, who are not only being asked to shell out for a new stadium under threat that the team will move to L.A., but who just saw the mayor they elected to take on Chargers management become embroiled in sexual harassment allegations.
Ask Bengals fans in Cincinnati, where the surrounding country put itself in debt up to its eyelids building a stadium for an owner who wants even more renovations.
That's what you have to put up with when you want an NFL team in your town, and that's the price you pay just for the off chance people will stop into your bars and restaurants and stay at your hotels on game day weekend. For some cities and markets, it's their shot at the big time. For towns that have been burned by the NFL before or don't feel like heading down that path anytime soon, it's a burden they're all to pleased to avoid bearing.
We looked at U.S. cities that have pro sports, but no NFL presence, and found five that will be just fine if they're never ready for some football: