As a fan of Kansas City sports, I’ve always wanted the city to add more sports teams. I’d love to go to the Sprint Center and watch a Kansas City basketball team get crushed by LeBron.
But will this dream ever be a reality? There are many factors involved.
No matter what sport it is, the most important factor in where teams choose to play is the stadium or arena.
You know why the Rams move from the second largest market to a smaller Midwestern one in the 1990’s? Because St. Louis built a new stadium, and Los Angeles wouldn’t. You know why they moved back? Kroenke figured out a way to make a private stadium work in Los Angeles and St. Louis’s new stadium proposal was tied up in the courts.
Luckily for Kansas City we have an arena ready for a team to move, having built the Sprint Center just 12 years ago. This alone will put Kansas City near the top of any relocation or expansion list for the NBA or NHL.
An arena is the most important factor, but it’s not enough by itself. The owner has to believe that there are enough entertainment dollars to go around to support them.
In a city like New York or Los Angeles this is no problem. They have a virtually unlimited amount of entertainment dollars to go around. But in a smaller city like Kansas City it’s a much bigger concern.
If you including Sporting Kansas City, the city has 3 major professional sports teams, a pretty large number for a city our size. That’s more than St. Louis, which is bigger, who only has 2 now that the Rams left.
But more than the number, the biggest problem is the leagues we have. In particular the Royals.
In addition to the stadium issues and trying to compete against Los Angeles, the biggest problem St. Louis had in keeping the Rams was how much of their entertainment dollars the Cardinals soak up. Because baseball plays so many games, and plays in such large stadiums, it soaks up far more entertainment dollars than any other sports league.
This is a big reason why you don’t see MLB teams in markets smaller than Kansas City. Cities like New Orleans, Jacksonville, and Oklahoma City are half the size of Kansas City, and simply wouldn’t be able to support an MLB team.
While the Royals aren’t as popular as the Cardinals (and thus don’t consume the same amount of our entertainment dollars), the sad reality for those of us who don’t care much for baseball is that if the Royals didn’t exist we would likely be able to have both an NBA and NHL team.
The other big hurdle for Kansas City is that we don’t have many of those ultra wealthy guys who can buy billion dollar sports franchises. If it wasn’t for the fact that some rich guys lived in Oklahoma City the Thunder would likely be playing in Kansas City right now (this is a big part of why they’re my least favorite NBA team).
If we can find enough of those Monopoly Guys who want to move a team here it would clear the biggest hurdle we’re currently facing.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t factor much into these sorts of decisions. The assumption owners have is that the fanbase will be similar no matter what city they move to (factoring in market size of course).
This was shown in the NFL choosing the Chargers over the Raiders to move to Los Angeles. Everybody knows the Raiders have a much bigger fanbase in Los Angeles than the Chargers do, but the owners believed that this didn’t matter. If the Chargers move there, they will build a fanbase.
So will Kansas City get another sports team in the near future? It’s hard to predict, but my gut says no. When the NHL expanded to Las Vegas, Kansas City was never seriously considered. Same for when the Sacramento Kings almost move to Los Angeles.
That being said, these things often materialize out of nowhere. Nobody had Las Vegas as a contender to get an NFL team in 2015, yet within a year they got the commitment from the Raiders to move there. So there is certainly a realistic chance that we get one.
We just have to root for a team to struggle and look to relocate. The Thunder would be a good choice.