If You Build It, Will They Come?

In the movie Field of Dreams, the protagonist puts a baseball field in the middle of a corn field and attracts a bunch of ghosts to play one final game. The famous line "If you build it, they will come" seems especially appropriate when it comes to arenas and stadiums for professional sports teams. But as we found in the case of the Sprint Center in Kansas City, simply building a facility is no guarantee that a professional franchise will relocate there.

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This notwithstanding, the Sprint Center is profitable even without a franchise, and the people of Seattle are still angry about the guy with the big hat who bought the Supersonics and moved them to Oklahoma City several years back. But they weren't angry enough to fund a new facility to replace the aging Key Arena with tax dollars, and so it's taken a few years for a group of private investors to step forward with $660 million to re-develop an existing facility that is currently home to a WNBA team.

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But will it be enough to encourage an existing franchise to move away from a less-than-desirable situation and towards a sunny future in a cloudy city? In the NBA a league that already has 32 teams, Memphis, Milwaukee, and other cities currently play host to struggling teams that seem likely candidates for relocation. And the same goes for the NHL and its warm-weather cities whose teams consistently under-perform and fail to attract enough fans. The NHL, which recently expanded to 31 teams, needs one more to reach an even 32, if that matters at all. And even if the league doesn't expand, a move to growing Seattle by a struggling franchise might be very realistic indeed.

Discussion: Can the new facility generate enough revenue to be profitable without attracting a major franchise? How can it do so?