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St. Louis Supporting Three Sports Teams Isn't Entirely About Cash, It's About Fans

A new study by the Business Journals breaks down the most "overextended sports cities" in America. St. Louis ranks number seven. Do we have to shell out big bucks to support our hometown teams?

The Business Journals took a look at markets with more than one sports team, and tried to figure out which market is bleeding their fans dry as far as prices go. It's not all about prices; they look at other economic factors such as population and average incomes. Denver, Colorado tops the list, needing a total personal income of $209.3 billion to support the Rockies, Avalanche, Nuggets, and Broncos. Their actual TPI is $121.9 billion, causing a shortfall of $87.4 million.

How did they come across what was needed to support each professional team? From the methodology of the report:

We used team revenue data and average ticket prices to calculate the amount of TPI needed to adequately support a team in each league. Minimum income bases were estimated to be $85.4 billion for MLB, $37.6 billion for the NHL, $36.7 billion for the NFL, $34.2 billion for the NBA, and $15.4 billion for MLS.

We then calculated each area’s available personal income (API) by subtracting the TPI needed to support the market’s existing teams. Philadelphia, for example, has TPI of $281.5 billion. But its five existing franchises (one in each sport), need a base of $209.3 billion, resulting in API of $72.2 billion.

St. Louis, with our three professional teams, ranked 7th in this analysis, with a TPI deficit of $42.3 billion dollars. Does this mean that one of the teams is in danger of moving due to lack of monetary support? Absolutely not. There's enough money for all three teams to co-exist here, and that's because of the fanbases.

A flaw in this could be seen that the study assumes that each individual will spend equal amounts of money on all three sports. That's not necessarily true. I'm not a professional football fan, and aside from the little Rams magnet on my fridge, I'm not going to do anything that can be seen as providing the Rams income. The Cardinals? I buy merchandise, and subscribe to, and you bet that if I were in the St. Louis area I'd have tickets to at least one game a homestand. Same goes for the Blues - I buy merchandise, I subscribe to GameCenter Live, and if I were to live in STL I'd have season tickets. You could argue that by not spending my money on the Rams, I have more to spend on the Cardinals and Blues, and that someone not going to the Blues games would make up my Rams-deficit.

Also, I understand that they used averages to calculate what a team needs to spend to provide adequate funding for their team. The term "adequate" is a matter of opinion. What the Blues spend to be "adequate" is less than, say, the Detroit Red Wings spend to be "adequate." What the New York Yankess spend is going to be more than the Kansas City Royals. Are both teams well supported in that they're able to function as legitimate MLB clubs? Absolutely. It's just the "what is the standard?" game.

Finally, you can "support" a team without necessarily going to games, as I mentioned above. I live in metro Atlanta. The Blues merchandise I order, and the GameCenter Live subscription package both supplement the Blues' income. Do I count in the TPI for St. Louis? No. Actually, something unmentioned in the article, is how they determine the area to include in the TPI calculation? Do they include St. Louis proper and that's it? St. Louis County? Metro East? And if they included the Illinois side, which counties did they include? Just Madison and St. Clair?

By not specifying what they considered a "metro area" and by not taking into consideration the large, dispersed fan bases of every professional sports team, The Business Journals shorted these teams significant numbers of fans with a passion for their team - and the ability to support it from afar.

Assuming that if a market shows a deficit or not is an indicator of the volatility of attendance and revenue for that team is also inappropriate. The Avalanche had a solid attendance streak going until the last few seasons. Does that have to do with the TPI or the fact that the team plunged to the bottom of the Western Conference standings? Pittsburgh, with a deficit of $56.676 million, shows no volatility of attendance unless you count the spike in Pirates attendance. Again - does this have to do with income, or does this have to do with the teams' records?

Sports are a numbers game, but they're also a game of intangibles. Unfortunately for The Business Journals, they didn't give them enough consideration.