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Sparks Watch Day 4: Relocation, relocation, relocation

Given the situation of the Sparks, we have to mention the dread word - "relocation". We revisit the old game of deciding the best cities for future (or present) WNBA franchises.


Since the WNBA is looking for a new owner for Los Angeles, we must bring up the dread word "relocation".  The bad news is that three WNBA teams have had to relocate - but the good news is that all three of these teams are still active.

* In 2002, after the fallout of Fraser v. Major League Soccer and the transition from operating agreements to individual ownership rights, two teams previously owned by NBA team owners found themselves somewhere else.  The original WNBA franchise known as the Utah Starzz ended up in San Antonio (where they became the San Antonio Silver Stars) and the Orlando Miracle left Florida after four years to become the Connecticut Sun.

* In 2009, Bill Davidson died.  Davidson owned both the Detroit Shock and the Detroit Pistons.  His wife inherited the team but she would begin divesting herself of his sports empire, and later that year the Shock moved to Tulsa.

Will the Sparks relocate? With the ownership group of the Golden State Warriors in talks with the WNBA, it sure looks like it.  It's hard to imagine a situation where the Sparks wouldn't be transplanted to San Francisco/Oakland if that deal went through.  The general rumors were that the San Francisco/Oakland area would be the landing spot for any WNBA team that looked like it was going to fold - the only question was when or if such a thing would happen.

So where could a WNBA team relocate itself?  This is a game played by WNBA fans that live in cities that have WNBA teams and those who don't.  There's always an argument advanced that City 'X' is the future landing target of a WNBA team/best place for WNBA expansion.

Therefore, I tried to determine where the best places would be for a team to relocate or for a WNBA team to expand.  Here are the rules:

* We only consider Top 50 media markets that don't have WNBA teams already.  We consider the Hartford/New Haven market as being the Uncasville (Connecticut Sun) market, so that market is excluded.

* We give one point to every location that already has an NBA basketball team.  The facilities would definitely be acceptable.

* We give one point to every location that isn't "oversaturated" - in other words, every city that doesn't have teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB and the NHL.  If a region has all four of those it's going to be hard to fight for media space.

* We give one point to every city that is distinctly left of center.  We point you to this graph which indicates that the WNBA skews more to the left wing than any other sport.  For data, we use a list by the Daily Caller of the most liberal friendly counties.

* We give one point to every city that is generally gay friendly.  We will use the Municipal Equality Index of the Human Rights Commission to judge - if a city has a rating greater than or equal to 75 on their 100 point index, we will assign a point.

* We give two points to every city that is senior friendly.  Why two points?  It's hard to find any information on the internet that isn't in small list form.  We will use the Forbes list of the Best Places to Retire in 2013 and if a city is on this list, we'll assign two points.

* We'll assign one point for each NCAA Division I school that is:

a) In the top 50 in women's basketball attendance over the last four years and
b) Within 60 miles or so of the city in question.

Given all of the criteria above, here are the cities that come up on top.

Orlando-Daytona Beach, Florida

* NBA team
* Not overloaded with sports teams
* Gay friendly
* Elderly friendly

Advantages:  Top 20 media market.  Great tourism draw in Central Florida with Disney. Expansion of WNBA to the South.
Disadvantages:  Already had a WNBA team (the Miracle).  Furthermore, that team never drew.  In its final year, the Miracle were 13th out of 16 franchises.  A counter argument can be made that the Miracle would have drawn if they had a better product on the floor.

Austin, Texas

* Not overloaded (has no major sports franchise)
* Gay friendly
* Elderly friendly
* College basketball team with Top 50 attendance (Texas)

Advantages: Generally hip and happening place.  The largest city in the United States without a pro sports team.  Could set up an Austin/San Antonio rivalry.
Disadvantages: How much of Austin's potential audience would be college students?  Does Austin empty out over the summer months?  Furthermore, WNBA teams in Texas don't always succeed (RIP Houston).

San Francisco/Oakland, California

* NBA team
* Left wing
* Gay friendly, probably the most gay-friendly city in the United States
* College basketball team with Top 50 attendance (Stanford)

Advantages:  Only reason this hasn't already happened yet is believed to be hostility of previous Golden State ownership.
Disadvantages:  Looks like it's going to happen real soon.  Moving on....

Denver, Colorado

* NBA team
* Left wing
* Gay friendly
* College basketball team with Top 50 attendance (Colorado)

Advantages: It's about time Colorado had a team.  There was the Colorado Xplosion in the WNBA and the Colorado Chill of the NWBL.
Disadvantages: There have been lots of rumors of someone having enough money to advocate for a team, but none of those rumors have panned through.  Stretches out travel budget of WNBA teams further.

Portland, Oregon

* NBA team
* Not overloaded with sports teams
* Left wing
* Gay friendly

Advantages:  Gives the WNBA another Left Coast team.  Unoffical slogan of city is "Keep Portland Weird" - just the right place for a WNBA team.
Disadvantages:  WNBA has tried and failed there - like Miami, a team there only lasted three seasons.  A counter-argument could be made that Portland was the team most screwed by the change in the WNBA ownership model - fans were supposedly enthusiastic.

Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina

* Not overloaded with sports teams
* Left wing
* Two college basketball teams in area with Top 50 attendance (Duke, North Carolina)

North Carolina "Research Triangle" has been great for women's basketball.  Duke, North Carolina, and North Carolina State all big names in women's college basketball.
Disadvantages: Aside from the Carolina Hurricanes, Raleigh seems to be the place where pro sports teams go to die.  Has a "small time" vibe despite being #25 media market in US.

Charlotte, North Carolina

* NBA team
* Not overloaded with sports teams
* Elderly friendly

Advantages: Fans would be glad to see an original franchise return.  Maybe they could get the old "Sting" logo.
Disadvantages: Had months to find new ownership, and failed.  Maybe a return to Charlotte should be categorized as wishful thinking.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

* NBA team
* Not overloaded with sports teams
* Two college basketball teams in area with Top 50 attendance (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State)

Advantages:  Oklahoma City would love to stick it to Tulsa.  Further move on up for OKC to being a major sports destination.
Disadvantages: Tulsa would throw a conniption fit - two WNBA franchises probably couldn't survive in Oklahoma; Tulsa would probably end up folding.


So if the WNBA were to expand - or if teams were to relocate - where would the landing places be?  Let us know in the comments below!