America’s Most Vulnerable Sports Cities – Forbes

Cleveland and New Orleans are among the smallest and poorest pro sports markets in the country, making them some of the most vulnerable to a potential economic slowdown. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

In recent years there have been few better investments than pro sports teams. Largely thanks to a booming stock market, rebounding economy and low interest rates, the values of American pro sports teams have been skyrocketing. Even just since last year the average NFL team is worth 19% more.

But many believe that the nation’s rapid economic growth will soon be slowing and that the market may be headed toward a significant correction. Wealthy investors have been holding record amounts of cash, some measures see GDP growth already slowing and parts of the economy are starting to look very similar to the years leading up to the last recession. Given that the cost of attending pro sports events has increased faster than other forms of entertainment – and much faster than inflation – the nation’s sports teams are likely at an even greater risk, since an economic slowdown could lead many Americans to curtail their discretionary spending on sports.

With that in mind, we sought to determine which American pro sports cities appear most exposed to that economic risk. Some markets have the benefit of bigger and/or wealthier populations, while others are the home to relatively low-cost sports teams and fans that have proven in the past that they’re willing to spend big on sports. All of those factors would appear to make a sports town more secure, while those lacking in those four key areas top the list of America’s most vulnerable sports cities.

Leading the list is Raleigh, NC. Though the home of the Carolina Hurricanes ranks around the middle of the pack in market size and wealth, Raleigh also sits dead last in local fan spending. That may have something to do with it being one of the country’s most expensive sports markets. The ‘Canes are the only game in town, and hockey isn’t cheap – a family of four has to spend $340 to attend a single home game.

Following Raleigh are New Orleans, Cleveland, Tampa and Buffalo. All four of the markets are relatively cheap compared to the other cities, but they’re also among the smallest and poorest of the bunch. In fact, NOLA sits last in wealth (median household income: $47,390) while Buffalo is the nation’s smallest market (568,000 people for each of the city’s two teams).

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