Best Sports Business Cities

By DAVID BROUGHTON AND DERICK MOSS
News
March 20, 2023

Sports Business Journal ranked the top 50 cities in the U.S. for the best opportunity and environment to conduct sports business. Feedback from industry insiders about stability, market size, fandom, impact and culture also informed our report.

It came up in a conversation among Sports Business Journal editors one day last summer: “What’s the best city for sports business? Can we measure that somehow? What does that even mean? How would you even do that?”

The research team jumped into action: “Hold my (craft) beer.”

We crunched the numbers for seven months, analyzing nearly half a million bits of data across 377 markets that are the home of at least one professional or Division I college athletic program, or a permanent event. We created an algorithm that took into account quantitative and qualitative data, as well as interviews and sentiment analysis from nearly 100 industry veterans. We learned a lot about what makes a city a great (and not so great) place for sports business.

We produced a list of the top 50 Best Sports Business Cities™. They are home to multiple tenured franchises, events, modern venues, sponsors, agencies, media partners and other critical vendors, located within reasonable proximity of each other so they can visit and knock out meetings with multiple organizations without overspending on hotel and meals. (“The more compact the zone, generally the better,” summed up a longtime marketing executive.). They also foster a climate of support from their residents, businesses and local governments (22 states now have a fund or grant program designed to lure and/or help pay for recruited events).

They have to be affordable to visit and/or live in (“You have to factor in labor costs, per diems and insurance, tax rebates and logistics for your clients and attendees,” said a league executive who has overseen many major events).

And they need to offer intangibles that are intrinsic to doing business, such as personal safety, quality hospitality and entertainment options.

DALLAS IS NO. 1

In the end, the data, the industry and even rival markets agree: Dallas is clearly the star.

The market’s sports business footprint, which includes Arlington, Fort Worth, Frisco and various U.S. Census-designated suburbs, is growing by the day. Dallas boasts world-class venues, progressive team owners, and a lower cost of living than most of its big-market peers.

If our ranking had been based exclusively on numbers, the biggest markets would have been favored, as they are home to the most teams and sponsors. But our research took on a different meaning when we entered the qualitative phase and asked industry sources: “Where do you think is the best place to conduct sports business?”

The total candor we received — provided there was anonymity — caught us off guard and demonstrated varied opinions about other markets.

“I’m a fourth-generation New Yorker — and if my father ever heard me say this I’d be kicked out of the family — but I think Boston is the best sports business town,” said one executive in Chicago.

“It pains me to say this, since I am a proud Michigan man and I was taught to dislike most Ohio-based things, but I’ve always been impressed with Cleveland when it comes to hosting marquee events,” said a New York-based executive.

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