Our state throughout its history has had professional teams scattered throughout the landscape. Professional hockey on the coast, baseball in the capital and the Mississippi Hard Hats basketball team in the Delta gave us a glimpse of the possibilities.
We know it can be done in Magnolia State under the heading of professional sports, but what about Major League sports? Can we support an NFL, NHL, MLB or NBA team within our borders? If you ask the experts, the short answer is “no”. But for dreamers, a team of Major League proportions is possible.
Let’s talk about the dreamer’s point of view first. Many who have discussed this topic in an online forum have cited the anecdotal example of the Green Bay Packers. The argument against a major franchise opening up in Mississippi is that we don’t have the people to back it up. But the optimist will point out that Jackson, Mississippi (166,000) has more inhabitants than Green Bay (107,000). Additionally, Mississippi has two college football teams (Ole Miss and Mississippi State) that consistently outperform Major League sports in tour styles.
Population and the ability to attract a crowd are two very important factors in maintaining a Major League franchise.
But, there are other factors that make this aspiration a little more nuanced. Going back to the point of the people of Green Bay and Jackson, the first is a public team, with Chicago and Milwaukee being the main food markets just a few hours away.
The challenge for a team in Jackson or any other part of the state would be too much distance from the stadium to a large grocery store.
If you venture out for a few hours in either direction, enter the Titans, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Cowboys, and Saints Markets. Even though we are targeting western and central Alabama as a feeder market, I’m more inclined to believe these fans would look to Atlanta for their Major League sports. Some teams located near major cities have more populous suburban markets than Jackson.
In addition to people, it also takes the atmosphere to attract a Major League franchise. Some experts question the state’s offers outside the arena for players, their families and team officials. Would there be enough entertainment, nightlife, quality of life and excursions to attract those involved?
Media markets and advertising also play an important role. Would the team have market access to get the most bang for their buck to sell merchandise, memberships, and other non-gaming related parts of the business?
Another point to consider is that some cities like Austin and Albuquerque, which have three quarters of a million and half a million people respectively, don’t have a team either.
So my final analysis for Mississippi is to pursue a Major League Baseball team and locate it on the coast where there are casinos, beaches, military facilities, access to New Orleans, Jackson, Mobile. and Florida without competition from basketball and soccer in the zone.
Patrick Ervin has been writing about the Delta for over two decades. He specializes in sport and religion