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Viva Las Vegas? Viva Las Whalers!

Following Mirtle's lead once again, came out last month with a comparison of which US sports markets were overextended, based on total personal income compared to the requirements of current professional sports teams located there. For example, the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Florida area was judged to be the most overextended, since the combined personal income of $75.6 billion supports an NFL, NHL, and MLB team. Compare that to a city like Seattle, which has three teams as well (NFL, MLB, and NBA), but boasts a total personal income of $156.6 billion*.

The neat part is that bizjournals posted a spreadsheet with some of the details. So let's tour some of the numbers, remembering that this refers only to income levels vs. the requirements to support a local team, based on ticket prices and other factors. The income levels to support various teams were as follows:

Major League Baseball, $89.2 billion
National Basketball Association, $38.4 billion
National Hockey League, $35.7 billion
National Football League, $33.0 billion
Major League Soccer, $16.1 billion

It's interesting how the NHL and NBA come in so closely together. It's high time for the NHL to realize that in its efforts to grow the sport nationally, the NBA is its direct competitor for the American sports-entertainment dollar. They play at the same time of year, with an 82-game schedule, in the same class of arena (i.e., not a football or baseball venue).

With all the talk about the Pittsburgh Penguins potentially moving, Mirtle was quick to note that Kansas City, usually cited as the favored destination for the Pens, came in as the 5th-most overextended sports market (even worse, they're the most overextended market that doesn't already have an NHL team).

Allow me to note this again, just to be clear. From a standpoint of available personal income within various metropolitan markets, Kansas City might well be the worst place in the U.S. to put an NHL team right now.

But don't get excited, Pens fans, because the price of sports has gotten so high in recent years that you'll probably have trouble holding on to all three of the Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins. And since the first two already have spanking new venues, it makes the cost of keeping the Pens that much more burdensome.

As to those markets which were most attractive to expansion, Las Vegas came in 4th, but I'm surprised Mirtle didn't note the city in 3rd, Hartford, Connecticut! The difference between the two is quite large. Las Vegas showed an available income figure of $56.2 billion, vs. Hartford's $77.8 billion. When you also consider the fact that a proven hockey fan base already exists in that area, perhaps the Pens should morph into whales...

Among NHL cities that would be considered overextended, Tampa, Phoenix and Denver were the top 3, followed by Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Buffalo and Minneapolis. For those interested in Nashville's plight, their market pretty much balanced out the requirements of an NFL and NHL team - clearly the money is here to support the Predators, but the corporate community needs to get energized about hockey. It remains to be seen whether a dramatic playoff run can get that momentum started in the Music City.

*Income figures taken from 2003. For more, see