We know Toronto is a possibility. Where else could the Bills wind up?

What Cities Could be a Successful Home to an NFL Team?

As we all know, Bills fans live with the constant threat of the team packing up and moving on once owner Ralph Wilson dies. It’s truly a scary thought.

However, one thing might save the Bills: there might be nowhere else for the team to go.

I decided to sit down and try to make a list of every city that I think even has a slight possibility to play host to an NFL team one day. And really, there aren’t many good options that don’t already have a team.

Going to Happen Soon:

Los Angeles – As soon as the lockout’s over, “get a team in Los Angeles” immediately becomes  Roger Goodell’s number one priority. There’s several potential ownership options, and they will find a way to get a stadium done there. If a team’s not there by 2015, I’d be absolutely shocked. Fortunately for Bills fans, I think the San Diego Chargers will be that team.

Definitely Possible:

Toronto – Toronto is a beautiful city and a major media market. Three big problems with moving an NFL team there though:

1)  There’s no way that both Buffalo and Toronto have teams. If any team moves to Toronto, it will be the Bills. If the league or the new ownership don’t want to move the Bills, Toronto won’t get a team.

2) Rogers Centre is not an NFL-quality stadium. It holds just 54,000 spectators and is over 20 years old. No way a team moves to Toronto without a larger facility.

3) Toronto already has a proud football history of its own. You best believe the CFL will fight this tooth and nail, and there certainly would be a backlash from Argonauts fans within the city if Toronto lost that team. Would there be enough support to fill a stadium?

Personally, I think it’s a a less than 50-50 shot that Toronto gets a NFL team of its very own. Just too many issues to sort out unless the ownership situation in Buffalo becomes a disaster. I do see the NFL pressuring the Bills to move a second game to Canada each year.

San Antonio – San Antonio has played host to an NFL team before, welcoming the Saints for a few games post-Hurricane Katrina. This is a better possibility for relocation than people realize. It’s a bigger city than you might think (over 1.3 million people), and the Alamodome isn’t so old or all that small (72,000 capacity for football). The NFL would eventually require a new stadium, but the Alamodome would work as a short-term option.

However, there’s already two teams in Texas and you’d have to win over a bunch of Cowboys fans. And would an ownership group want to move a team there?

Maybe Down the Line Someday:

Las Vegas – Vegas would be cool, I admit. There’s a decent size population – right behind San Antonio is the list of the largest “urban areas” in the U.S. I could also see the team drawing well, if for no other reason than fans of the opposing teams could make a pretty fun weekend out of hitting the town on Friday/Saturday and getting to the game on Sunday. There’s also probably not a ton of loyalty to existing teams amongst the citizens of Vegas.

Two huge issues. One, Vegas was CRUSHED by the recession. Two, no way the NFL is the first league to give Vegas a try. League honchos are terrified over the gambling association and probably aren’t sure the team would draw well. The NFL will wait for the NBA or NHL to give Vegas a “test drive” first.

London – Let me just say that a team in London is an AWFUL idea. One game over there a year is a sort of novelty and not a terrible idea. But I don’t think a team permanently housed there brings in fans consistently. And the travel would be a nightmare. But Goodell seems gung-ho for this international expansion thing, so don’t rule it out.

Mexico  City – While logistically I think this would work better than London, I don’t think it’s any more likely. Could you charge high enough ticket prices to be competitive with other NFL teams? How would the players feel about living in Mexico?

Probably Not:

Portland (OR) – Big urban center (#23 in the U.S.), but I don’t think it’d be a good fit for the NFL. It’s a very counter-culture, “different” city. The new MLS franchise Timbers jives better with the personality of  the city.

San Jose – Too close to a bunch of other NFL cities. And can you really get a stadium built in California right now? (Except in Los Angeles, of course).

Orlando – Three teams in Florida is probably at least one too many. This isn’t happening. (Update: Reader J.D. Moore made a good point in the comments: that the Jaguars could move down the state from Jacksonville to Orlando. I somehow didn’t consider that. If there’s any chance that Orlando gets a team, it will be the Jaguars. No way the NFL puts four teams in Florida.)

Oklahoma City – The NBA’s Thunder have been a success story, but this just isn’t an NFL city. Definitely a college football area. Boomer Sooner!

Birmingham (AL) – Want your pro football league to die? Put a team in Birmingham. The city has had teams in the WFL, the USFL, the WLAF, and the XFL. None of those leagues currently exist. (As a weird side note, the city also had a team in the CFL for a year. Because that makes sense.)

Anyway, I don’t see the NFL coming to Alabama anytime soon.


So, there aren’t a ton of viable cities out there at this point. Disagree? Did I miss a city? Let me know in the comments.


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  • Derek

    Maybe too close to DC, but Norfolk/ Va Beach could use a team

  • Brad Andrews

    Yeah, too close to DC. Daniel Snyder would throw a fit.

  • http://sportdfw.com J.D. Moore

    While a great assessment overall, I feel that Orlando will get a franchise- the Jacksonville Jaguars. I give them an 80% shot of moving by 2015 and a trip down to Orlando will be a good situation for them.

    Otherwise, I agree on your list. The only other major city that could be considered (but put on the “probably not” list) is Salt Lake City.

  • Brad Andrews

    Ooo…I somehow hadn’t considered the Jaguars-to-Orlando idea. That definitely could happen.

    I’m still not a big fan of the idea – I just don’t think Florida teams that aren’t the Dolphins draw that well – but that’s a real possibility. I’ve updated the story to reflect that fact.

  • Kellon Hughes

    I Dont know about Portland. It supports any team that
    Comes there. Its a city full of self pride, and loves
    when someone mention the name Portland. Portland has
    alot of NFL nuts, you would be suprised. Its a Sports
    town with only 2 Pro teams. A NFL Franchise would do really well in Portland. Just like the Blazers and the Timbers. If it has the name Portland on the front, its supported by the city, and even the state. And it might happen, there is a group of busnessmen that has been hell bent on landing a team. The NFl said that if they provide the money, then they could land a team.

  • JD619

    One of two things is going to happen concerning L.A. Either the Bills are going, or the Chargers are going and then the Bills are coming to San Diego. San Diego is far and away a much better market than Buffalo will ever be, and the NFL wants a team in San Diego.

  • Brad Andrews

    I’m a fan of Portland, and I think a team anywhere near Seattle would be great. However, could you get an NFL-quality stadium built in Portland? I don’t know. I just don’t think the NFL to Portland will happen anytime soon, but I could be wrong.

  • Brad Andrews

    San Diego is a better market than Buffalo, no doubt, but Qualcomm Stadium is a dump. Unless San Diego builds a new stadium – and the prospects of that are not great – the city’s not getting a new team if the Chargers leave. Period.

  • Kellon Hughes

    Well, i actually did a research project on this. I found alot of possible places, ie next to the OHSU Tram, where it does not effect the urban growth boundry. There is also money, with a group of busnessmens wanting to fund a team. The money and the sight is there, it just takes a team.

  • DK

    Northwest sports fans are rabid. The thought that this city is “different” doesn’t really apply to its enjoyment of sports. The Blazers have enjoyed success there for many years. Now the new Portland Timbers franchise is experiencing sellout games. Just look at Autzen stadium, the Oregon Duck’s fans holding a record at 127 dB. That’s only half the state too, the state is divided between Ducks and Beavers fans. The Seattle Seahawks being about 3 hours away entices some NFL fans to make the journey. An NFL team in Portland would be a great investment.

  • Josh Baker

    I think Charlotte, NC should get a team. They’re 17th on the list of most populated cities and Carolinians love football.

    Wait… are we counting the panthers?

    On a serious note, what about Louisville? Rabis sports fans, have housed many pro and semi-pro football teams, population at almost half a mil. I don’t know what the money is like in Kentucky, but they already have 5 semi pro-teams including and Arena Football team.

    The only downside I see to Louisville is that is is geographically close to Cincy, Nashville, etc. but they still deserve to be in the conversation.

  • Brad Andrews

    Hey, I’m all about Portland. If this article was “Cities I’d like to see get a team,” Portland would be near the top. I just think it is behind other cities on the NFL’s priority list. The cities ahead of it either have a major media market (L.A., Toronto), the international thing Goodell seems to want to go for (Toronto, London, Mexico City), or has an NFL-size stadium ready to go (San Antonio). You could argue I should have moved Portland up a tier into the Vegas (“maybe someday”) category.

  • Brad Andrews

    If the NFL is going to move a team, it’s going to be to a major media market. Louisville doesn’t quite fit the bill. I think it could work, but San Antonio gets a team before Louisville if L.A./Toronto/London/Whatever doesn’t work out.

  • buffalo_stinks_like_poo

    buffalo is going to L.A. PERIOD…..san diego is getting a new stadium IN SAN DIEGO JUST WATCH

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