Relocating Teams and Expanding Leagues in Professional Sports: How the Major Leagues Respond to Market Conditions

By Frank P. Jozsa Jr.; John J. GuthrieJr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
ExpansionTeams, 1950 to 1977

In the past fifty years, for cities with big-league aspirations, expansion has provided a common path to that destination. Urbanization coupled with the "continuing need of major leagues to place teams in key metropolitan and regional markets," has spurted such growth according to political affairs professor Michael N. Danielson. In his view, "The push of demographic and economic change has been reinforced by the ability of leagues to sell expansion franchises for ever-higher prices, attractive offers from places that want big-league teams, political pressures to make professional sports more accessible, and fears that rival leagues will set up business in bypassed markets." 1

Urban affairs professor Kenneth Shropshire defines expansion as the "legitimate way for a city to obtain a franchise." He states: "Expansion involves no moving vans in the night, rarely results in lawsuits, and avoids the drastic lease concessions that are made in desperate attempts to keep an established franchise owner happy. The primary expenditure that the expansion franchise seeker must make is the franchise fee. The individual or group must show that it has sufficient operating capital to support the venture." 2

Taking a cue from Danielson and Shropshire, this chapter focuses on why, when, and where professional baseball, football, and basketball leagues expanded between 1950 and 1977. Leagues decide whether to expand, and to which site, by having each owner vote on the issue. In reaching these decisions, sports leagues create committees to perform market research, establish criteria and guidelines, set application procedures, review bids from prospective owners, and evaluate possible sites in which to locate a new franchise. Market size, accessibility to radio and television networks, venue capacity, the ownership and management structure, and the location of other professional sports teams in a region play key roles in influencing a league's decision to expand. Along with these factors, the league may consider other issues. Interleague games or the

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