Relocation of the A's or Rays has been the recent talk du jour, along with the lingering specter of contraction. I don't see contraction being an option (too hard of a sell to the players union, among other myriad complications), but if the A's and Rays don't get a new stadium deal soon, I could easily see relocationchat coming up again. With that in mind, I thought I'd put together a primer on possible relocation sites.
So where exactly is the best place for relocation, especially given the current economic climes? Well let's start off with top Metropolitan Statistical Areas that lack a baseball team
Rank MSA 2009 Pop 2000 Pop Change
23 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA MSA 2,241,841 1,927,881 +16.29%
25 Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA MSA 2,127,355 1,796,857 +18.39%
27 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA 2,082,421 1,644,561 +26.62%
28 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX MSA 2,072,128 1,711,703 +21.06%
30 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA 1,902,834 1,375,765 +38.31%
31 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSA 1,839,700 1,735,819 +5.98%
33 Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC MSA 1,745,524 1,330,448 +31.20%
34 Indianapolis-Carmel, IN MSA 1,743,658 1,525,104 +14.33
35 Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX MSA 1,705,075 1,249,763 +36.43%
These are the usual suspects when it comes to relocationchat. We'll talk about their current baseball markets later on. For now, these areas are around the size of Cleveland and are all bigger than Milwaukee, which has an MLB team. So moving to these areas is at least possible. Now let's see how they've weathered the current economic cataclysm.
So from our list earlier, it looks like both Texas cities (San Antonio and Austin) have weathered the recession the best, while Indianapolis, Charlotte and Virginia Beach/Norfolk are also in the top 40%. Vegas, Orlando, the California cities, as well as Portland, are all suffering more than normal and thus aren't primed for relocation.
So we've dwindled our list down to Austin, San Antonio, Indianapolis, Charlotte and Virginia Beach/Norfolk. Let's take a look at their current baseball markets. Austin and San Antonio are in Houston's market, Indianapolis is at the intersection between Chicago and Cincinnati markets, Charlotte is heavily in Braves nation, and VA Beach is in the Baltimore/Washington area.
Of these, Virginia Beach might be the hardest sell, since moving the Expos to Washington took a lot of cajoling of Pete Angelos of the Orioles, and the MLB should be loath to bring in another team while the Nationals are still settling.
The other 3 areas (I'm merging San Antonio and Austin together, since they are relatively close and of similar economic standing in this recession) all seem like good candidates, and shouldn't harm their current baseball market teams too badly.
North Carolina has a lot of people and is doing well in this current recession thanks to reliance on high-technology and biomedical industries settling in the research triangle. While team in Charlotte would draw significant resistance from Atlanta, the Braves have a monopoly over most of the South, which is one of the more quickly growing regions of the US, so asking them to cede North Carolina shouldn't be fatal
Indianapolis would be a little trickier to sell. Like NC, Indianapolis has survived thanks to the presence of Eli Lilly and other biomedical companies. The Colts have one of the more fervent fanbases in all of football, so the city is capable of following a major sport. The biggest obstacle is that it is in Cincinnati's market, and is almost the same size as Cincinnati. Thus losing Indy would be a significant blow to the Red's TV market. Plus, an Indianapolis-based team would have to rely on fans from central Indiana tuning in, which is not a lot of people, and these people have been following the Cubs for quite a while.
San Antonio/Austin seems the most feasible. The areas are growing and are developing a nascent hi-technology corridor. The two cities aren't too far apart (~80 miles) and thus a team could draw from two wealthy, growing metro areas, which should be enough of a TV market to succeed. Houston is a big enough market that it should be able to deal with losing these 2 cities.
In conclusion, Charlotte and San Antonio/Austin seem to be the most fertile ground for re-location. Charlotte could host the Rays and San Antonio the A's without disrupting the current divisional geographical alignment.