It doesn’t happen for every sport, every single season, but it does happen often: major professional sports teams change cities. Sometimes it takes years for it to happen; just think about how long it’s been that they’ve been thinking of relocating the Buffalo Bills. And sometimes, it is a quiet decision that’s announced just months before it actually goes into effect, like with the New Jersey Nets moving to Brooklyn.
For the most part, this should have no bearing on the performance of players. But this is theoretical only. In reality, athletes tend to play better in certain locations than in others. Certain stadiums are more conducive to power hitters in Major League Baseball, for example, while other parks tend to favor pitchers. In this sense, a relocation can actually have a very big impact in some sports. Even when it comes to games that should have the same playing field everywhere, like in the NFL and NBA, relocated players can sometimes struggle for a time. You can see this happen on a daily basis in every sport when you think about the homefield advantage that many players will tell you is a very real thing. In fact, sports books already take this into account when creating spreads for games. In the NFL, it is commonly accept that two equal teams will in reality have a 3 point difference just because of the difference in being the home or away team. If you are a sports bettor, this is something to take into account regardless of what sport you bet on.
Why do teams switch cities? What it comes down to is one thing: money. Owners spend a lot of time figuring out where their teams will be more marketable, and then if they can get the league’s approval, they start the process. This is precisely what happened with the Montreal Expos. Montreal was a very popular city for a while because they hosted the 1976 Olympics, but there has been a steady decline since then. By the year 2000, they were definitely not a baseball city. Relocating to Washington was an easy choice for MLB and team owners. There’s a big population with more money to spend, and a baseball team had been there earlier in the previous century. There was a high probability of success for a team, rebranded as something more American. The Nationals have been around for several years now, and have met with huge success.
Building a stadium is not a cheap thing, and this is one of the many expenses that needs to be addressed when a relocation is being considered. If revenue can beat the cost of erecting a stadium, then it will be worth it. Sometimes, this can take ten years, but in the end, it’s worthwhile. Cities also love having pro sports teams because it increases tourism and brings more outside dollars into the local economy. This has seen many cities bidding for teams in the past, and sometimes cities will even offset a lot of the cost of building a new stadium, complete with tax breaks, as a result.
Relocations happen, and usually it’s a smart business move. As a fan, it can be hard to see your team go away, but it’s all part of the big business of sports, and it should ideally help the players themselves to have more incentive to perform by giving them a bigger audience and more potential for salary increases.