In 2001, a franchise in Seattle, Washington moved from Husky Stadium to CenturyLink Field; and although the relocation wasn’t far, this move affected their franchise in two ways. First, it expanded the market for professional sports to cities on the west coast in states like California, and Washington. Second, the relocation altered the relationship between sports franchises and their communities.
The Seahawks originally moved their team not because of a lack support from the fan base, but rather in hopes of increasing the team’s finances. In other words, they simply moved the team to make more money. Sixteen years later, owners are still moving teams around in search of making the best deal, and not just the best fans.
The Moving Process
Relocating a professional team isn’t as simple as packing up a moving van. It involves cognitive thinking, careful planning, and most importantly, money. In the United States, for example, moving a team is more common among less establish teams with small (or practically nonexistent) fan bases. Reasons for relocation are usually associated with either financial problems, problems with their facilities, lack of support, or simply the wishes of the owner(s). In most cases, however, it’s a combination of them all
Unlike most professional sports worldwide, sports organizations within the United States usually don’t operate a system of promotion and relegation, in which poorly performing teams are replaced with organizations the league owners think will do better in lower-level leagues. In other words, the U.S. does not have comprehensive governing bodies whose authority extends from amateur to the higher levels of a given sport. This means that the only way a North American city can host a major league sports team is by league extension, forming/joining a rival opponent league, or buying an existing league franchise and relocating it. Whatever the case may be, team expansion can only be formed in cities that will provide economic opportunities.
A city like Las Vegas, for instance, wishing to get another team in a major professional sport league has to wait for the league to expand and award new franchises. As of 2015, however, each of the major leagues have either 30 or 32 teams. This means that current owners believe this is the optimal size of a major league, and aside from the expansion of the National Hockey League (NHL), none of the other major leagues are believed to be considering an imminent expansion anytime soon.
Generally speaking, owners usually move their teams due to weak fan base or because the team is in debt and relies on adequate population for financial support; or simply because of other cities like Seattle that might offer a local market with more financially lucrative arena deals. Government officials may also offer deals to team owners in order to attract or retain a team. In 1995, for example, the state of Maryland agreed to build a brand-new stadium in Baltimore and allow the Cleveland Browns to use it rent-free and keep all parking, advertising, and concession revenue. This deal later introduced the Baltimore Ravens to the NFL.
The relocation of a team is almost always a controversial topic in the sports industry. Opponents criticize owners for leaving behind loyal fans, and government officials for spending millions of taxpayer dollars on attracting teams. Since sports teams in the United States are treated like any other business under antitrust law, there is little they can do to prevent teams from running to the highest bidders.
How does relocating to a new city affect employees?
With 1 in 6 Americans changing residency each year, professional athletes are no exception. Moving is usually a rather daunting step that can bring feelings of insecurity and uneasiness, often times followed by fear of the unknown. Makes sense, right? Every person reacts differently when subjected to a sudden change: some athletes, for instance, and their families try desperately to hold on to their past. Others develop the exact opposite strategy to get back on track and move forward.
When it comes to athletes moving to a new city with their loved ones, their main concern might be to try to keep their routine as normal as possible. Moving to a big city with their family is definitely a unique experience, and it’s entirely up to the family to benefit from the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This, however, is easier said than done.
Athletes aren’t the only ones who struggle with relocating to new cities. Children are forced to relocate schools, wives are faced with a hard decision of either staying, or quitting their job and starting all over. But most importantly, the family risks the chance of breaking up if neither parent tries to come to some sort of agreement.
The Financial Impact
As if moving your family wasn’t hard enough, moving to a state like California or Washington, will prove to be a lot harder financially than most players think. This means that NFL employees won’t be getting a 51.7 percent increase on their salary like they did in other cities. As a matter of fact, they likely won’t receive an increase at all. They will need to use more of their take home pay, which will be less due to high taxes, in order to maintain the same standard of living they had in places like Missouri, Texas, and Ohio.
Since athletes are paid millions of dollars each year, this shouldn’t be a problem, right? Well, if you consider the average career in the NFL (3.3 years), athletes, in fact, don’t have much time to build a well-balanced investment portfolio for early retirement.
That’s why it’s important for players like Eddie Lacey (Seattle Seahawks running back), to make changes accordingly when it comes to personal finance. Especially since Washington and Wisconsin have different tax laws.
In the long run, as teams like the Seahawks go through free agency roundups, one method that can be used for addressing these problems would be for NFL contracts to contain some sort of tax and cost of living equivalently provisions. That way salaries can be adjusted depending on tax and cost of living differences among different organizations.
Keep in mind, this article does not discuss:
- Moves between countries.
- Team moves that occurred prior to them joining its current league.
- Teams that threatened relocation to acquire new stadiums or arenas in their current without physically moving.