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.
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?
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.
Follow BLD on Twitter @BuffLowDown