I think there’s enough interest in the idea of bringing an MLB team to Raleigh to warrant a new topic. There’s also a kick-off event at Trophy on Maywood April 13th from 1-4pm.
I’ve mentioned this in the other thread, but I’ve noticed that every time Rob Manfred talks about possible expansion locations, he always mentions Charlotte and never mentions Raleigh (or even just “North Carolina” generally). I’d be really curious to learn why that is.
Off the top of my head, I could think of a half-dozen possible reasons, but I’d be curious to hear his thoughts (which are really just MLB’s thoughts) on why they seem to clearly prefer Charlotte, especially since MLB is privy to vast realms of incredibly granular and baseball-specific data about each potential market.
Hey, I’m one of the many working on that MLB Raleigh project so I can at least give you our take on the Manfred/Charlotte thing.
Manfred mentioning Charlotte was actually probably the moment that this campaign to put Raleigh (the Triangle) in the conversation went from just an idea to something we really felt needed to happen.
Because of market size & growth rates, those in the baseball industry that we’ve spoken to all say the same thing. MLB is watching NC very closely. The gap on the eastern seaboard between Atlanta and Washington is extremely large and smack dab in the middle of it is a state whose metro growths have ranked near the top nationally since 2010. So I think it’s safe to say that NC is going to be a major player in expansion/relocation in the next 5-6 years.
Knowing that, our belief is that Charlotte is just the default city in NC you focus on when you are talking pro sports. But why?
We get into a lot of that here… The case for Raleigh over Charlotte for MLB expansion – MLB Raleigh
Long story short, Charlotte is a viable option and from a high-level seems like the easy choice in NC (which we believe is why Manfred mentions them). However, as you dig in you start to see that there are really major hurdles involved in that happening (mentioned in that article). Meanwhile, the Triangle’s market numbers are actually very close and gaining every year.
So what we wanted to do was educate on the uniqueness of this area’s layout and why that it makes it tough for those from the outside to understand the true size/sprawl of this region, and also makes it near impossible to get a true 1:1 comparison with simple hub and spoke cities.
If you understand all of that, and you plot the Triangle against current small market MLB cities and against the ‘potential expansion’ cities Manfred listed, you see that we slot right in the middle of nearly every metric. The question really becomes, why not Raleigh? Why not the Triangle?
I don’t think you should make the assumption that Manfred or MLB has done extensive research and vetted all angles of bringing MLB to the Triangle or Charlotte. Expansion hasn’t even been officially announced yet. The wheels, from their perspective, haven’t even begun turning yet.
Manfred himself said he will switch focus to really digging into expansion markets after they figure out the Tampa Rays / Oakland A’s situation. So our goal is to be ahead of almost every city as far as organization, education and excitement as a community.
Tampa, Oakland and Miami are all cities that check every box when it comes to market size and money. However, baseball is failing in these places. So to assume MLB will just look for the biggest market with the most people and the deepest wallets, may be a mistake. Numbers of course will matter, but community support WILL play a role in landing a team.
We spoke to a writer from a national publication who deals with the business side of sports and he’s been working on covering possible expansion for a couple years now. He reached out to understand our play and he explained that his focus in NC has always been in Charlotte, but said he wasn’t fully aware of the data we produced, but said it’s spot on and went as far as saying he now believes Raleigh makes a lot of sense and is a ‘serious possibility’ for expansion (FWIW).
**note: Charlotte’s movement on MLB is non-existant and the writer said he’s searched for the story in Charlotte but found nothing in a year of looking. There is no ownership group, there is no movement of notable size. There is just the AAA Knights who have landlocked themselves into a minor league stadium by building it where they did. Said it’s looking more and more like they are and will always be a minor league city.
One issue with Raleigh getting a team could be the agreement that was reached when the Expos were brought to DC. In order to assuage the Orioles losing a huge market they all had to themselves, MLB extended the local market footprint to Raleigh, in order to give MASN a huge subscriber base. Something that was never fully realized because TimeWarner and other refused to carry the network. I just wonder how all of this plays into areas where MLB might be looking. Maybe it’s a big factor, maybe it’s a small factor or maybe it’s absolutely no factor.
I can’t tell which market Charlotte falls into on this map. Maybe someone else can decipher it.
If an MLB team is going to be stopped from coming to NC because it’s grazed by an existing TV market that is 6 hours away and was created specifically for the current (at the time) locations of MLB cities, then the prospects if it really happening were never strong enough to begin with.
This will very likely be an arbitration issue or one that MLB looks at and renegotiates in collective bargaining. When you are moving a team (or 2) and adding 2 more, a map like this can’t hold as is.
Plus if that were the case, there wouldn’t be expansion anywhere. Any new team is going to draw some local markets away from the next closest team.
Yes any team would have an argument to make but I don’t know how many of them have specific written agreements in place like the Orioles do. Just saying if everything is equal between markets (which it never is ) I wonder how this plays into it.
@JosABanks Charlotte is part of the blackout territory for Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta, and (for historical reasons) Cincinnati.
When I said that I could think of half a dozen reasons off the top of my head why MLB might prefer Charlotte over Raleigh, the TV market situation was the very first thing that came to mind. Washington and Baltimore would no doubt prefer a Charlotte franchise to a Raleigh one, and I can’t imagine that Cincinnati’s interest in the Charlotte market is worth very much. So that would just leave Atlanta to work with, which wouldn’t present the unique challenges that you would get trying to take a huge bite out of MASN’s territory.
@Loup20 I am extremely skeptical of the idea that MLB needs to be educated about the Raleigh market, or is lacking good data, or they’ve just settled on Charlotte as the best market because they haven’t thought about this seriously. Every time I log into MLB At Bat, MLB knows where I’m logging in from, and so they know how many subscribers they have in both markets. Every time I buy something from MLB Shop, I enter in my zip code, and so MLB knows how much merchandise is sold in each market. For every nationally televised game, MLB knows what the TV ratings are in each market. The league has access to vast, vast reams of knowledge that none of us get to see, whereas there’s hardly anything that we can tell MLB that they don’t already know.
That’s why I’d be really interested to hear someone pin down Manfred and get a straight answer on this. For instance, all we can do is speculate about how each market might implicate the issue of TV territories, but it strikes me as basically impossible to think that the owners haven’t already had some serious high-level conversations about this among themselves. But obviously if Manfred keeps mentioning Charlotte, then I think we can infer that the owners have decided they would be on board with putting a team there.
The other thing to remember is that the whole paradigm where MLB (or any other sports league) awards franchises to “cities” is a polite fiction maintained because it’s in everyone’s best interests to market it that way. Really, MLB is going to award a franchise to an ownership group that has committed to a particular city. Here again, MLB no doubt has all kinds of useful information that we’re in the dark about.
Cincy really? MLB really needs to rework their markets just in light of the MLB app. I’m always annoyed that I can’t get Pirates games when they play in DC or Baltimore.
Just another reason to be happy I don’t live in Charlotte
I think the recent lack of success for the Canes both on the ice and at the gate is making people skeptical of pro sports in this market in a way they don’t need to be in Charlotte due to the success of the Panthers (nevermind that the Panthers draw heavily from all over the Carolinas, but I digress). Also, people rightly perceive this market as a college sports town. That’s fine, but I do think the divided loyalties foster a lack of civic pride (not just sports, look at DOLRT!) that could be remedied by an MLB team (or a successful Canes team, or a successful North Carolina FC, etc.)
From this map, it looks like the Nationals and Braves have an abnormally large share of the country’s population. Especially if you consider that 2/3rds of the US population lives in the eastern third of the country (east of the Mississippi River). Raleigh is about 6 hours from DC and Atlanta, so were would be a pretty equal split between those two cities. Charlotte is bigger, but closer to Atlanta, so there would be some politics about CLT potentially taking a bigger chunk from Atlanta than from DC, were as the Triangle is equidistant from the two nearest MLB teams.
OK, that is about my extent of baseball knowledge. #GoBroncos!!
There are four notable “black holes” (high population areas far from NYC where the Yankees are the #1 team) on the below map:
- One centered on Raleigh also including Norfolk and Greensboro but not Charlotte
- One centered on New Orleans
- One covering Orlando and Jacksonville
- One spanning roughly from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City
Of course there are other areas that do have a local team that could probably support another MLB franchise, basically the usual suspects:
- Portland, which is listed as Mariners territory
- Austin-San Antonio which belong to the Rangers.
- Nashville, which belongs to the braves, which I would call an especially tenuous link.
If I were MLB, I’d be looking at all of these places for expansion.
@daviddonovan I’ve heard you take the stance that you believe MLB is on top of these things and know way more than we will ever know. That is certainly possible.
What is also very possible is that while they have access to nearly unlimited data points, they have not yet dug into its depths and coupled that with physical obstacles such as ownership group/ community support/ stadium questions/ etc.
My day job is in conversion design for a very large, very public corporation. We deal daily in data collection to inform us on digital experience, marketing, visual design and overall business decisions. I’ve also worked in the same role at a local large health care provider that all of you know.
People would be absolutely amazed at:
a) How much data is actually being collected
b) How disorganized companies are with their data
c) How the bigger the org, the harder it is to sync up data/findings and come together to make a business decision for the company as a whole
My point is, companies that you think probably have their act together as far as data goes, probably don’t. And the smarter bet (even for companies that are industry leaders and have stupid money to throw around) is that they likely have all the data they need, but they don’t know how to strategize on using it, and they don’t know how to organize to tell a full story.
Which is MLB?
I don’t think either of us knows that. But the lack of real hard information about cities they are keying on tells me they are still early in the fact-finding, data organizing stage. Manfred has constantly shied away from listing cities in any official way in public, and people in the industry (one of whom has spoken to Manfred specifically on expansion) believe that movements like the one we are trying to create are going to play a role in city selection at some level.
At the end of the day, very few people will know the answer to that unless MLB wants to come out and go into those details.
In the meantime, why WOULDN’T Raleigh and the Triangle do all it can to make its case?
The way we’ve structured things (with it being completely community driven and all profits going back into underserved communities to jumpstart baseball programs) at the very least:
You raise your cities profile nationally on it’s size, community, and passion for baseball
You help build fields for kids in our area and organize volunteer groups that love both baseball and the city and want to give back.
You go on a cool brand exploration with the entire community on color, logos, history, etc. All happening in real time, all with baseball as its vehicle and with no one profiting but the Boys and Girls Club of Raleigh
Best case scenario is you get all of that AND a Major league team.
In a lot of these expansion cases I wonder how much the sport relies on the groups making the pitch to present them with data and then MLB/MLS/NHL etc does their due diligence? No sense in doing the work ahead of time if there isn’t a group with boots on the ground.
It’s hard to compare the success of a football team and hockey team though. As someone who grew up in the South, hockey is a weird sport that I don’t really understand. Watching football and baseball come natural. I still like going to Canes games when I can but I don’t always know why a whistle was blown and have no clue on strategy.
We have a long time tradition of college sports here. But honestly, I am sick of the NCAA and all the exploitation, scandals, and misdirection of resources that should be focused on higher education. As a NCSU alumnus and a big Wolfpack fan, I say it is time for big-time, big-money division 1 athletics as we know it to go away.
This should come with a corresponding increase in participation in minor league sports and would probably also result in more major league teams as well to fill in the holes.
However, the profile of college baseball and soccer are much lower than that of basketball and football, meaning those sports would actually be less affected by this, so maybe this is not the right thread for my tirade. Things in those sports are better balanced, with both the minor leagues AND the NCAA viewed as acceptable career paths for promising athletes hoping to go pro.
@Straggler This is another great point. Too often the conversation starts with “Well, this area can’t even sell out their hockey games. Why would they think they can support pro bseball?”
This is, IMO, is a surface argument that isn’t taking the full picture into account.
The Durham Bulls are year in and year out top 5 or top 10 in all of minor leagues in attendance. NC State, UNC and Duke have much higher attendance than most other college baseball programs. There is a rich (and often overlooked) history of baseball in this region. At the same time, baseball (according to MLB) is leading all sports nationally in youth participation. Also, add in the fact that we live in an area that has perfect weather patterns for baseball and games are played outside during some of the nicest months of the year that have almost no major sport overlap.
People here know baseball and many have played baseball at some level. You just can’t say the same about hockey in NC. There is a very low youth participation rate in hockey nationally and there is very little history of the sport in our state. Those are some of the hurdles the hurricanes face that a baseball team would likely not have to deal with.
Obviously, this argument will never be cut and dry, but it’s certainly worthy of consideration when you project attendance over the course of a season.
Yeah, I think that’s pretty much where the opportunities are within the U.S., especially North Carolina, Portland, Nashville, and a third Texas team, although the blowback from the Rangers and Astros to that last one would likely be intense.
But the most promising expansion opportunity for MLB is probably Montreal, I’m guessing. It’s the largest market by far, it’s the only one that’s supported an MLB team before, and it would present, by far, the fewest issues with existing TV markets, since Toronto would just be giving back a Quebec market it only acquired recently and would still have the whole rest of Canada. So everybody else might be fighting over one more franchise, and that’s if the Rays stay in northern Florida and expansion really does happen, which is still not guaranteed at this point.
Long term, the dream is very much to have an MLB franchise in Mexico, but it sounds like there’s a strong consensus that this is still a few decades away.
The consensus of those we’ve talked to in the industry are that the Rays will be moving, and likely far before their lease runs out in 2027. They believe the A’s moving is less likely, but if they do it would be somewhere else on the West Coast.
If and when expansion occurs (its publicly stated that is the plan) you have 2 more teams. So the odds at this point are that you’d have 3 cities getting a new franchise.
Montreal is a front runner in terms of market size. However they’ve failed with baseball before and weather there is an underlying concern. However, if the money is there, they are likely getting a team.
Portland is the other front runner when it comes to expansion. Market size-wise they are very close to the Triangle and not growing as fast. However, their movement (The Portland Diamond Project) has galvanized the community around the idea and it has put them in a good position now that the excitment and organization has led to investors getting involved.
That leaves North Carolina (The Triangle or Charlotte) , Nashville, and Las Vegas. Of those, most believe NC is the most obvious choice. So it very well could come down to The Triangle vs. Charlotte. The goal of the movement is to make the case for The Triangle, create organization and excitement while showing a community that promotes and supports baseball in hopes of attracting an exploration committee or better, an investor group to get the ball rolling on that front.