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50 Biggest Cities Without a Major Sports Franchise

  • 1/ Brint03 // Wikipedia

    50 Biggest Cities Without a Major Sports Franchise

    In the lead-up to the 2017 NFL season, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers — each franchise having returned to the City of Angels within the past calendar year — launched a social media campaign dubbed the “Battle for Los Angeles.” The two teams not only had to contend with each other for the attention of fans across the Southland, but with the plethora of other Los Angeles-based professional sports franchises in other leagues. Across football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer, L.A. has nine professional teams in the area, with a 10th on the way when the expansion MLS team — Los Angeles FC — debuts in 2018.

    That’s a lot to take in for sports fans in the area, so much so that the overflow of sports options might have oversaturated the market. Whereas people in Los Angeles have too many pro teams to choose from, other cities aren’t so lucky. To remind Angelenos how lucky they are for their overload of rooting interests, here’s a look at the 50 largest American cities without a major sports franchise. We’ll focus on cities that don’t have a single NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS or WNBA franchise, ranking each by population, according to the 2016 U.S. Census.

  • 2/ Scottthezombie // Wikimedia

    #50. San Bernardino, California

    - 2016 Population: 216,239

    - Overall US Population Rank: #100

    Best sports destinations: Baseball fans can watch the Inland Empire 66ers play at San Manuel Stadium. The 66ers have been the Class A-Advanced affiliate for the Los Angeles Angels since 2011.

  • 3/ Staplegunther // Wikimedia

    #49. Boise, Idaho

    - 2016 Population: 223,154

    - Overall US Population Rank: #99

    Best sports destinations: The Colorado Rockies’ Class A minor league affiliate — the Boise Hawks — play at Memorial Stadium as part of the Northwest League. The Boise State Broncos football team, famous for its blue turf field, stands as one of the most successful Group of Five programs in major college football.

  • 4/ C Watts // Flickr

    #48. Richmond, Virginia

    - 2016 Population: 223,170

    - Overall US Population Rank: #98

    Best sports destinations: The Washington Redskins have held their annual training camp in Richmond since 2013. The Richmond Flying Squirrels — the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants — have played in the city since 1972. The city also has a women’s professional football team: the Richmond Black Widows of the Women’s Football Alliance. Richmond also has two universities that compete at the Division I level of the NCAA: the University of Richmond Spiders and the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams.

  • 5/ Getawaypaul27 // Wikimedia

    #47. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    - 2016 Population: 227,715

    - Overall US Population Rank: #97

    Best sports destinations: The LSU Tigers rule the sports world in Baton Rouge, particularly the school’s football program. The Southern University Jaguars also call the city home, competing in football at the FCS level.

  • 6/ David Ball // Wikimedia

    #46. Fremont, California

    - 2016 Population: 233,136

    - Overall US Population Rank: #96

    Best sports destinations: There are no professional teams located in Fremont, but there was a time when that appeared to be a possibility. The Oakland Athletics have long been rumored to be on the move, and talks of a new stadium in Fremont were tossed around in the mid-2000s. Those plans were halted in 2009, and Fremont residents must drive the 26 miles to Oakland to watch the A’s instead.

  • 7/ William Addington // Wikimedia

    #45. Garland, Texas

    - 2016 Population: 234,943

    - Overall US Population Rank: #95

    Best sports destinations: There are no college athletics in Garland, though the city is less than 20 miles from Dallas. The Garland High School Owls football team has a strong history, a point of pride in the football-crazed state.

  • 8/ Phillip Pessar // Wikimedia

    #44. Hialeah, Florida

    - 2016 Population: 236,387

    - Overall US Population Rank: #94

    Best sports destinations: Hialeah is home to the famed Hialeah Park Race Track, which holds quarter horse races. The venue opened in 1922 and is one of the oldest recreational facilities in Florida. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

  • 9/ Cygnusloop99 // Wikimedia

    #43. Gilbert, Arizona

    - 2016 Population: 237,133

    - Overall US Population Rank: #93

    Best sports destinations: There aren’t any semi-professional or college teams located in Gilbert, so sports fans in the area have to cling to teams in the Phoenix area. Thankfully, downtown Phoenix is just 22 miles away.

  • 10/ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers // Wikimedia

    #42. Chesapeake, Virginia

    - 2016 Population: 237,940

    - Overall US Population Rank: #92

    Best sports destinations: There are no professional sports franchises in the entire state of Virginia. The closest to pro sports residents of Chesapeake can get is via the Norfolk Tides — the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The Tides play just six miles from Chesapeake at Harbor Park as members of the International League.

  • 11/ John Tornow // Flickr

    #41. Irving, Texas

    - 2016 Population: 238,289

    - Overall US Population Rank: #91

    Best sports destinations: Irving was the site of Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys from 1971 to 2008. The team moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas — about 15 miles away — in 2009, and Texas Stadium was demolished in 2010. Irving is also the site of the Big 12 Conference’s headquarters, though there are no member schools located in the city.

  • 12/ BobHWS // Wikimedia

    #40. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

    - 2016 Population: 242,203

    - Overall US Population Rank: #89

    Best sports destinations: Wake Forest University is located in Winston-Salem, and the Demon Deacons play in the NCAA’s Division I. Additionally, the Winston-Salem Dash — the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago White Sox — play home games at BB&T Ballpark.

  • 13/ U.S. Navy // Wikimedia

    #39. Norfolk, Virginia

    - 2016 Population: 245,115

    - Overall US Population Rank: #88

    Best sports destinations: In addition to the city’s minor league baseball team, the Norfolk Tides, residents of Norfolk can watch the Norfolk Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League. The city also is home to two Division I NCAA programs: Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University.

  • 14/ Ken Lund // Wikimedia

    #38. Reno, Nevada

    - 2016 Population: 245,255

    - Overall US Population Rank: #87

    Best sports destinations: The Reno Aces — the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks — have called Greater Nevada Field home since 2009. They played in Tucson, Arizona from 1998 to 2008. In addition, the Reno Bighorns of the NBA G League have played home games at the Reno Events Center since 2008. The Bighorns are owned by the Sacramento Kings.

  • 15/ Dru Bloomfield // Flickr

    #37. Scottsdale, Arizona

    - 2016 Population: 246,645

    - Overall US Population Rank: #85

    Best sports destinations: In addition to being nearby several professional sports franchises in Phoenix, Scottsdale plays host to the San Francisco Giants’ spring training facility, Scottsdale Stadium. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks also share a spring training site in Scottsdale, playing at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

  • 16/ Ixnayonthetimmay // Wikimedia

    #36. Chandler, Arizona

    - 2016 Population: 247,477

    - Overall US Population Rank: #84

    Best sports destinations: Chandler is less than 25 miles from Phoenix, so residents don’t have to look far for teams to devote themselves to. Within the city’s limits are successful high school athletic programs, including Chandler High School and Hamilton High School.

  • 17/ Elred / Wikimedia Commons

    #35. Lubbock, Texas

    - 2016 Population: 252,506

    - Overall US Population Rank: #83

    Best sports destinations: The biggest sports draw for Lubbock residents are the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who play in the Big 12. The athletic program has one NCAA national championship, won by the women’s basketball team in 1993.

  • 18/ lbwings21 // Wikimedia

    #34. Madison, Wisconsin

    - 2016 Population: 252,551

    - Overall US Population Rank: #82

    Best sports destinations: The city of Madison’s most significant sports following centers on the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers’ football team plays at Camp Randall Stadium, the oldest stadium in the Big Ten Conference.

  • 19/ Billy Hathorn // Wikimedia

    #33. Laredo, Texas

    - 2016 Population: 257,156

    - Overall US Population Rank: #80

    Best sports destinations: It’ll take some looking, but there are lower-level professional sports teams located in Laredo, including the Laredo Heat of the United Soccer Leagues’ Premier Development League. The Laredo Lemurs baseball team played in the independent American Association of Independent Professional Baseball beginning in 2012, but the team folded after the 2016 season.

  • 20/ Bluedog423 // Wikipedia

    #32. Durham, North Carolina

    - 2016 Population: 263,016

    - Overall US Population Rank: #78

    Best sports destinations: The biggest sports draw in Durham is the Duke University men’s basketball team, one of the most storied college basketball programs in the country. The school offers several other Division I varsity sports. In addition, locals can watch the Durham Bulls — the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

  • 21/ Jim.henderson // Wikimedia

    #31. Jersey City, New Jersey

    - 2016 Population: 264,152

    - Overall US Population Rank: #77

    Best sports destinations: Within Jersey City is Saint Peter’s University, whose athletic teams — the Peacocks and the Peahens — compete in the NCAA’s Division I and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Jersey City is also less than 10 miles from MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets.

  • 22/ Zach Klein // Wikicommons

    #30. Fort Wayne, Indiana

    - 2016 Population: 264,488

    - Overall US Population Rank: #76

    Best sports destinations: The Fort Wayne Komets of the East Coast Hockey League have been competing since 1952, and play their home games at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The city also owns a piece of baseball history, as the first professional baseball game ever was played on May 4, 1871, between the Fort Wayne Kekiongas and the Cleveland Forest Citys. Fort Wayne won the premiere game, 2-0.

  • 23/ BirdKr // Wikimedia

    #29. Irvine, California

    - 2016 Population: 266,122

    - Overall US Population Rank: #75

    Best sports destinations: Since returning to Los Angeles, the Rams have held their training camp on the campus of UC Irvine. In addition to the UC Irvine Anteaters athletics programs, Irvine is only about 16 miles from Angel Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels.

  • 24/ Port of San Diego // Flickr

    #28. Chula Vista, California

    - 2016 Population: 267,172

    - Overall US Population Rank: #74

    Best sports destinations: Though there are no professional sports franchises in the city, Chula Vista is regular destination for some of the world’s most gifted athletes. That’s because the city is home to the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, a year-round training facility for Olympic athletes. The venue opened in 1995 and supports facilities for nine Olympic sports: archery, canoe/kayak, cycling, field hockey, rowing, soccer, softball, tennis and track and field.

  • 25/ C.P. Kirby // Wikimedia

    #27. Toledo, Ohio

    - 2016 Population: 278,508

    - Overall US Population Rank: #72

    Best sports destinations: The Toledo Mud Hens — the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers — have played in the city for over a century. Toledo’s private golf course, Inverness Club, plays host to several PGA Tour events each season. Additionally, the city is the home of the Toledo Reign, a women’s full-contact tackle football team that competes in the Women’s Football Alliance.

  • 26/ Bobak Ha’Eri // Wikimedia

    #26. Lincoln, Nebraska

    - 2016 Population: 280,364

    - Overall US Population Rank: #71

    Best sports destinations: Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska, whose football program reigns supreme as the city’s most beloved sports team. The Cornhuskers are currently members of the Big Ten, and play their home games at Memorial Stadium.

  • 27/ Loadmaster // Wikimedia

    #25. Plano, Texas

    - 2016 Population: 286,057

    - Overall US Population Rank: #69

    Best sports destinations: Plano is only 20 miles from Dallas, and less than 40 miles away from Arlington. The city also is the home of Collin College, a community college whose athletic programs participate in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

  • 28/ Wahkeenah // Wikimedia

    #24. Greensboro, North Carolina

    - 2016 Population: 287,027

    - Overall US Population Rank: #68

    Best sports destinations: Greensboro has been home to a minor league baseball team since the early 20th century, now known as the Greensboro Grasshoppers. The Grasshoppers are the Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. Since 2016, the city has hosted the Greensboro Swarm of the NBA G League. The team is owned by the Charlotte Bobcats. Greensboro is also home to the headquarters of the Atlantic Coast Conference, though the city’s biggest college sports program — the UNC Greensboro Spartans — participate in the Southern Conference.

  • 29/ Spitwater // Wikimedia

    #23. Henderson, Nevada

    - 2016 Population: 292,969

    - Overall US Population Rank: #67

    Best sports destinations: Henderson is only about 15 miles from Las Vegas, which is now home to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. Sin City will soon gain its own NFL franchise, after the Oakland Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas was approved in March 2017. The Raiders will likely begin playing in Las Vegas in 2021. Henderson also has a notable high school basketball program in Findlay College Prep, which has produced future NBA players such as Avery Johnson, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett.

  • 30/ Frank Kovalchek // Wikimedia

    #22. Anchorage, Alaska

    - 2016 Population: 298,192

    - Overall US Population Rank: #66

    Best sports destinations: The biggest sporting event in Alaska is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which has its ceremonial start in Anchorage. The city is also home to three teams in the Alaska Baseball League, an amateur college summer league: the Anchorage Bucs, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks.

  • 31/ NativeForeigner // Wikimedia

    #21. Stockton, California

    - 2016 Population: 307,072

    - Overall US Population Rank: #62

    Best sports destinations: The Class A-Advanced minor league baseball team, the Stockton Ports, play their home games at Banner Island Park in downtown Stockton. The team is an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League have played in the city since 2015.

  • 32/ David Ohmer // Flickr

    #20. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

    - 2016 Population: 318,449

    - Overall US Population Rank: #60

    Best sports destinations: Known as the “Horse Capital of the World,” the city of Lexington is a major center for Thoroughbred breeding and is home to two horse-racing tracks: Keeneland and The Red Mile. The Lexington Legends — the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals — plays home games at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. But the most popular sports draw in city is the University of Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team, which is one of the most successful programs in college basketball.

  • 33/ Sptams // Wikimedia

    #19. Riverside, California

    - 2016 Population: 324,722

    - Overall US Population Rank: #59

    Best sports destinations: The UC Riverside Highlanders athletic teams play in the Big West Conference of the NCAA Division I. The school offers seven men’s and eight women’s varsity teams, and the campus is home to the Riverside Sports Complex, which serves as the home field of the school’s baseball team.

  • 34/ Wikipedia

    #18. Corpus Christi, Texas

    - 2016 Population: 325,733

    - Overall US Population Rank: #58

    Best sports destinations: The Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League serve as the Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. The city also hosts the Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League, as well as the Corpus Christi Crabs of the Texas Rugby Union.

  • 35/ Santaniego // Wikimedia

    #17. Santa Ana, California

    - 2016 Population: 334,217

    - Overall US Population Rank: #57

    Best sports destinations: Junior college and high school athletics reign in Santa Ana. The city is home to the Santa Ana Bowl, a renowned location for football and soccer games for many Orange County schools. Mater Dei High School, one of the most successful high school athletic programs in the country (particularly in football) is located in Santa Ana. Santa Ana College also succeeds at the community college level.

  • 36/ Bobak // Wikimedia

    #16. Honolulu, Hawaii

    - 2016 Population: 351,792

    - Overall US Population Rank: #55

    Best sports destinations: The biggest draw for sports fans in Honolulu is the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors athletic programs, particular its football team, which plays home games at Aloha Stadium. The city also hosts the Honolulu Marathon each December, with tens of thousands of participants every year.

  • 37/ Ken Lund // Wikimedia

    #15. Aurora, Colorado

    - 2016 Population: 361,710

    - Overall US Population Rank: #54

    Best sports destinations: Aurora is less than 20 miles from Denver, so you’ll find plenty of Broncos and Rockies fans in the area. In 2004, the city was named “Sportstown” of Colorado by Sports Illustrated because of the community’s “involvement in facilitating and enhancing quality sports.”

  • 38/ nickchapman // Wikicommons

    #14. Bakersfield, California

    - 2016 Population: 376,380

    - Overall US Population Rank: #53

    Best sports destinations: The Bakersfield Train Robbers of the independent Pecos League play their home games at Sam Lynn Ballpark. The American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors also call the city home. At the collegiate level are the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners, whose programs participate in the Big West Conference.

  • 39/ Art davis // Wikimedia

    #13. Wichita, Kansas

    - 2016 Population: 389,902

    - Overall US Population Rank: #50

    Best sports destinations: The most popular team in Wichita are the Wichita State Shockers’ men’s basketball team, which has made the NCAA Tournament every year since 2012. The city also features an independent baseball team (the Wichita Wingnuts) and an indoor football team (the Wichita Force).

  • 40/ Nmajdan // Wikimedia

    #12. Tulsa, Oklahoma

    - 2016 Population: 403,090

    - Overall US Population Rank: #47

    Best sports destinations: There are two universities in Tulsa that compete at the Division I level: The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles. The city also is home to the Tulsa Drillers, a minor league baseball team that serves as the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • 41/ Collinulness // Wikimedia

    #11. Omaha, Nebraska

    - 2016 Population: 446,970

    - Overall US Population Rank: #44

    Best sports destinations: Omaha has been the host of the NCAA College World Series every year since 1950. Perhaps the most popular team in the city is the Creighton University Bluejays men’s basketball team, which currently competes in the Big East.

  • 42/ C Watts / Flickr

    #10. Virginia Beach, Virginia

    - 2016 Population: 452,602

    - Overall US Population Rank: #43

    Best sports destinations: The Virginia Beach City Football Club has participated in the National Premier Soccer League since 2013. The city also plays host to the East Coast Surfing Championships each year.

  • 43/ Senior Airman Christopher Griffin // Wikimedia

    #9. Colorado Springs, Colorado

    - 2016 Population: 465,101

    - Overall US Population Rank: #40

    Best sports destinations: Colorado Springs is the location of the United States Olympic Committee headquarters and one of three U.S. Olympic Training Centers, earning it the title of “Olympic City USA.” The city is also the home of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, as well as the Colorado Springs Switchbacks Football Club of the United Soccer League.

  • 44/ Jennifer chong // Wikimedia

    #8. Long Beach, California

    - 2016 Population: 470,130

    - Overall US Population Rank: #39

    Best sports destinations: The Long Beach State 49ers baseball team — also known as the “Dirtbags” — compete at the Division I level as members of the Big West Conference. The city also hosts the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and IndyCar Series race every year. Founded in 1975, the event is the longest-running street race in North America.

  • 45/ 2candle // Wikimedia

    #7. Mesa, Arizona

    - 2016 Population: 484,587

    - Overall US Population Rank: #36

    Best sports destinations: Mesa is the site of Hohokam Stadium, a 10,500-seat baseball park that serves as the spring training home of the Oakland Athletics. The ballpark also hosts the annual Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament.

  • 46/ Jon / Flickr

    #6. Fresno, California

    - 2016 Population: 522,053

    - Overall US Population Rank: #34

    Best sports destinations: The Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball team competes in the Pacific Coast League as the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. The Fresno Fuego soccer team of the Premier Development League is also based within the city. At the collegiate level, the Fresno State Bulldogs’ football program is among the most successful Group of Five teams in the NCAA’s Division I.

  • 47/ Ken Lund / Flickr

    #5. Tucson, Arizona

    - 2016 Population: 530,706

    - Overall US Population Rank: #33

    Best sports destinations: The biggest sports draw in Tucson is the University of Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team — by a wide margin. The program has made the NCAA Tournament in 31 of the past 32 years, with four appearances in the Final Four. The Tucson Roadrunners — the affiliate for the Arizona Coyotes — compete in the American Hockey League.

  • 48/ Riverrat303 // Wikimedia

    #4. Albuquerque, New Mexico

    - 2016 Population: 559,277

    - Overall US Population Rank: #32

    Best sports destinations: The Colorado Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate is the Albuquerque Isotopes, who play in the Pacific Coast League. The University of New Mexico Lobos athletic teams compete in the Mountain West Conference of the NCAA’s Division I. The city also has an indoor football team, the Duke City Gladiators, that plays in the Champions Indoor Football League.

  • 49/ Kylebluegrass // Wikimedia

    #3. Louisville/Jefferson County metro government (balance), Kentucky

    - 2016 Population: 616,261

    - Overall US Population Rank: #29

    Best sports destinations: One of the largest sporting events in the country is held annually in Louisville: the Kentucky Derby, which takes place at the historic Churchill Downs. College sports are also popular in the area, and the University of Louisville Cardinals’ athletic programs — particularly men’s basketball — have a large following.

  • 50/ Sterling // Wikimedia

    #2. El Paso, Texas

    - 2016 Population: 683,080

    - Overall US Population Rank: #20

    Best sports destinations: The UTEP Miners football team plays its home games at Sun Bowl Stadium, which plays host to the Sun Bowl each year. El Paso is also the home of the El Paso Chihuahuas, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

  • 51/ Johntex // Wikimedia

    #1. Austin, Texas

    - 2016 Population: 947,890

    - Overall US Population Rank: #11

    Best sports destinations: The University of Texas at Austin is the biggest sports draw in the city, particularly its football and baseball programs. The Longhorns football team plays its home games at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, one of the nation’s largest football at over 100,000 seats. Aside from the collegiate level, Austin also has the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

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