The NFL in Utah: Possible or pipe dream?

By Ryan Teeples

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Feb. 1 2013 11:35 a.m. MST

Now look at cities which are geographically related to our core markets but are considered separate media markets. But for purposes of fan support for a professional sports team, these ancillary markets would be included and considered important when determining market support.

This table was a bit too large to put right in the article body, so I put this table to the left and made it expandable to be easier to see.

Suddenly, Cleveland is a very attractive market (well, at least in terms of potential fan base). Nashville, Buffalo and Charlotte also grow considerably in size.

Of intrigue is the fact that Jacksonville and New Orleans (on paper, at least) do not appear to be strong support bases for NFL teams. But considering the dramatically high fan participation in high school and college football in SEC country, it’s not a stretch to expect those markets to be just plain more devoted to the sport and subsequently an NFL team — although Jacksonville isn’t exactly thriving in terms of fan attendance and TV ratings, and their on-field product is so bad even Tim Tebow could help.

So considering all the data above, it appears that Salt Lake City would be very much an outlier in terms of potential fan-base and market size for an NFL franchise.

The realities

Analysis like the one above would only be the beginning in any true pro-forma evaluation of the viability of such an undertaking as relocating or starting an NFL franchise.

Intense market research and sentiment analysis would help determine how much capitalization potential there is in a market (what percentage of the population would be interested), how many potential corporations there are for sponsorship, whether there is infrastructure for supporting events, etc.

Not only that, who would actually buy or bring a team to Salt Lake? The list of potential owners in Utah is shorter than the VIP list at a University of Utah basketball game.

Utah routinely shows up on “best of” lists for states great for starting businesses. Or “most livable” states and cities. A primary reason for this is Utah has a low tax-rate and fairly conservative fiscal policy. This makes the pool of tax dollars in a city much smaller, and the state as a whole much less likely to pay for a stadium and infrastructure with any kind of public funds.

And then there’s the Sunday Sabbath issue. As mentioned above, capitalization is a big issue. If there is a large portion of the population who would go to church and roast-beef family dinner rather than watch or attend games, that could become a significant factor in the viability of the financial mode.

The conclusion

So again, the question: Could Salt Lake City, Utah, support an NFL team?

The answer: Maybe, but probably not at present. Without having done any detailed market research, the proposition looks iffy. Cities like Jacksonville have certainly done it, but that franchise isn’t exactly model. And it has the advantage of siting in the epicenter of football.

In the end, it probably doesn’t matter because there are plenty of cities that would be in line ahead of Salt Lake — namely, Los Angeles.

But were an ownership group able to get a seat at the table after resolving the aforementioned issues, the road to success would be like a hike to the top of Timpanogos.

Then again, I’m sure Larry Miller was told all these things before.

Ryan Teeples is a respected marketing and technology expert, full-time sports fan and owner of Ryan Teeples Consulting Inc. (RyanTeeples.com) — Would you like to contribute to DeseretNews.com? Contact Landon Hemsley. Email: lhemsley@desnews.com

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