by Cole Pepper
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has made hosting sporting events a major part of his administration’s outreach and business development program.
The NBA is returning to Jacksonville for a preseason game, the Suns continue to draw well (3rd in the Southern League this year), back-to-back soccer matches drew major crowds at EverBank Field. Does this mean that Jacksonville can support another professional team? Here’s my view on each sport, how likely and how soon (or not so soon) Jacksonville could be home to a second major sports franchise.
Average attendance in the league: 17,348. Home dates per season: 41. Avg. Ticket Price: $50.99
The Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena holds just over 14,000 for basketball. Clearly, the Arena would need a renovation. I’ve been told that it does have the bones to expand, but it would cost money. Almost certainly, any NBA team that would move to Jacksonville would want an NBA-ready arena waiting for them.
NBA following in Jacksonville is spread among a number of teams, mainly, whoever is doing well. Currently, teams like the Heat, Lakers, Bulls and Nets have small followings in Jacksonville, but there is not a clamoring for NBA basketball in the city outside of city hall, where the Mayor has stated that he would love to see an NBA team in town.
Basketball does not draw particularly well in Jacksonville, with the exception being the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which has sold out each of the two years Jacksonville has hosted. Jacksonville will again host in 2015.
Chances of Jacksonville getting an NBA Team: 1 in 50 | Earliest it could happen: 2020
Average attendance in the league: 18,013. Home dates per season: 41 (24 this year due to strike) Avg. Ticket Price: $61.01 (increased to to strike)
Let’s be honest, there’s no way that the NHL is going to look at Jacksonville. There are maybe 150 die-hard hockey fans who routinely turned out to support teams like the Lizard Kings and Barracudas. Beyond that, there are some transplants that have their own team to root for, but it’s few and far between. When is the last time that you overheard a hockey conversation between two Jacksonville natives other than, perhaps, during the Stanley Cup Finals or the Olympics?
Chances of Jacksonville getting an NHL Team: 1 in 5,000 | Earliest it could happen: 2080
Average attendance in the league: 29,767. Home dates per season: 81. Avg. Ticket Price: $46.49
Every five or six years, there is a team in Major League Baseball who is unhappy with their stadium deal and they need a city to hold up to the local politicians as “the place that wants to build us a new stadium.” Tampa used to be this place. Then they got a team. There isn’t that trendy city anymore. Sometimes Oklahoma City or Indianapolis comes up in conversation. Why not Jacksonville? Until the new team (with a new stadium) came into the league in Pensacola, the Suns led the league in attendance every year since the Baseball Grounds was built (they’re 3rd in attendance this year, but there are still four more Thirsty Thursday’s to go). Major League Baseball would likely be hesitant to put another team in Florida without good reason, but a retractable roof stadium would make an attractive pitch. Then again, where is the money coming from for that? And where would you put it. There isn’t enough room for a stadium of that size on the current plot of the Baseball Grounds.
Chances of Jacksonville getting an MLBS Team: 1 in 99 | Earliest it could happen: 2021
Average attendance in the league: 17,441. Home dates per season: 17. Avg. Ticket Price: $26.15
These attendance numbers are thrown out of whack a bit by Seattle, where they routinely draw over 40,000. Most teams fall into one of two categories, those drawing around 20,000 per game, and those drawing around 14,000 per game.
In order to become an MLS city, Jacksonville would have to build a stadium that could hold around 15,000-18,000. Its possible that the stadium could be a multi-use facility, but it would have to have soccer in mind when being built. This could happen. There are some influential folks around town are big soccer backers, and the city showed well (see photo above) when team USA played Scotland, drawing over 45,000 to the match, then shortly thereafter, over 18,000 tickets were sold for the US Women’s national team facing Scotland. There is a following of sorts.
Two Mexican pro teams will play on July 3 at EverBank Field and in February, the Philadelphia Union of the MLS will play a pre-season game in Jacksonville. Attendance for those games will likely go a long way to determining whether Jacksonville will be on the long list for an MLS team.
Chances of Jacksonville getting an MLS Team: 1 in 15 | Earliest it could happen: 2016
What’s your opinion? Vote in the poll:
Which professional sports do you think would do the best in Jacksonville?
- MLS-Soccer (53%, 47 Votes)
- MLB-Baseball (25%, 22 Votes)
- NBA-Basketball (16%, 14 Votes)
- NHL-Hockey (6%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 88