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The San Antonio Marlins?

Via The Jeffersonian, officials with the Florida Marlins met with San Antonio politicos to discuss the possibility of relocation to the Alamo City after their lease expires in 2007.

Marlins president David Samson said San Antonio was the first stop on a tour that will last three to five months.

“We’re not a free-agent pitcher. We’re a team looking for a right fit,” said Samson.

[…]

Major League Baseball has given the Marlins permission to explore relocation.

Samson was escorted by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger.

“We don’t know where it all might lead, but it’s a start,” said Wolff.

San Antonio is the interim home for the Hurricane Katrina-displaced Saints. The NFL team faces questions about returning to New Orleans, but commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Monday he thinks the Saints will play some games in New Orleans next season.

“It’s only one indication of how San Antonio is moving forward on all fronts, that the Marlins are even here talking to us,” Hardberger said.

Samson also is expected to visit Las Vegas, Portland, Oregon and other cities he didn’t disclose.

In terms of both media market size and metro area population, Portland makes the most sense, with Sacramento, Orlando, Indianapolis, and Charlotte also in the mix. Sacto would get resistance from the A’s and Giants, while it’s hard to imagine moving from one Florida city to another when the other franchise in that state is also doing poorly. Las Vegas is a comparably-sized metro area but a relatively small media market, coming in behind places like Grand Rapids, Birmingham, and Albuquerque. I’d love to know what other cities Samson has in mind. If Indy and Charlotte aren’t on his list, I’d have some questions for him

As far as the Alamo City goes, The Jeff notes some other issues to consider.

If both the Marlins AND the Saints wanted to relocate to San Antonio, then we could possibly see County Judge Nelson Wolff, a long time baseball player and avid fan, going head to head with Mayor Phil Hardbarger, longtime friend of Saints owner Tom Benson. I don’t think we’d have the cash to bring both in- it’s been said that it would cost about $200 million to refurbish the Alamodome and build a practice facility for an NFL franchise, while the cost of a modern baseball stadium is even higher (Minute Maid Park in Houston was built for $250 million).

And with the Spurs needing every creative mind they have to fill the seats 41 times a season, I don’t know how an MLB franchise could fill the seats for 81 regular-season games a year. I’d say regionalize the team and put it somewhere in between San Antonio and Austin, but I don’t know how you’d come up with the public financing for that.

The regional idea is interesting, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. I’m also not sure that ensuring that the vast majority of game attendees have to drive 20 or more miles is a wise one, especially if I-35 is involved.

My money’s on Portland, which would also mean that the NL West would become a five-team division while the East shrank to four. Of course, as Neil de Mause mentions, contraction could (though very likely won’t) rear its ugly head again.

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7 Comments

  1. Kent says:

    I grew up in the Portland area and was just back for a visit and job interviews last month.

    My money is most definitely NOT on Portland for a baseball team at the moment for a lot of local factors that have nothing to do with market size.

    Basically Portland is a town that is just getting over a massive population influx that has caused skyrocketing housing prices and skyrocketing taxes. Multnomah County (metro Portland) is struggling to pay for schools and the region is flush development that is making the locals crazy. Add to that the following:

    1. A HUGE amount of public money was spent remodeling historic civic stadium in downtown Portland into what is perhaps the nicest minor league ballpark on the planet and home for Portland State football. That project suffered big overruns and public disgruntlement.

    2. The Blazers are trying to weasle out of paying for their relatively new arena, the Rose Garden and dump the cost of that building on the public.

    3. Huge sums of public money is being spent on other flashy projects like a tram up the mountainside to the med school which is turning out to cost triple the original estimates, and developers have been cashing in on all sorts of tax abatements to build condos and remodel lofts in the downtown area.

    All those factors put together means that Portland is probably the least likely city in the entire US to vote for public funding of a big sports stadium. And because the public process is very important in Portland, that sort of thing won’t happen without a vote. I just don’t see baseball getting a dime out of the city of Portland for a posh new stadium at the moment.

    Now if the Marlins came to town and wanted to build their brand new stadium with all their own money then sure, Portland would be great. But if they wanted to build their own stadium then they would just stay in Miami in the first place right?

    San Antonio and Las Vegas are far more likely to dump giant sums of public money into a stadium in my book. And I think that makes the difference.

  2. P.M.Bryant says:

    San Antonio? Major league baseball? I’d love it, but I see zero chance of this happening.

    Frankly, none of the Marlin’s possibilities for moving seem likely. Miami is a huge city. South Florida is a huge market. If they can’t make it work there, they might as well give up.

    I think they will almost certainly stay in south Florida, after this ploy convinces the pols there to spit up the money for the new stadium they feel they can’t live without.

  3. Kent says:

    I tend to agree that they are unlikely to leave south Florida. The factors that make it a poor baseball market (transient population, lack of baseball culture etc.) also apply to Vegas in droves. and most of the sun belt also for that matter.

    I tend to think this is just high stakes extortion. Sounds like what the Marlin’s really need is a local owner who actually gives a shit about baseball.

  4. Having spent a couple of years exiled in Sacramento, I have to say it is just too damn hot to play baseball outdoors in the summer. They’d have to build a retractable dome stadium, and I don’t think it will happen. More likely is that someday the Raiders will move there.

    My money is on Portland or Indianapolis, with Orlando with an outside shot.

  5. Orlando Joe says:

    I just moved to Orlando last summer and went a Devil Rays game late in the season. That place can’t draw flies. I walk up to the ticket window and buy seats right behind home plate. But, I digress… The Orlando Marlins would work, although just two hours from the St. Petersburg home of the Rays. This city is growing and home prices are high, but there is no funding crisis like Portland faces. A tourist tax on the millions who visit the attractions like Disney World and Universal Orlando keep the coffers full. Downtown is being revitalized and the cities that border Orlando are also making plans for growth. The biggest problem here is transportation as the population boom has outpaced highway construction. However, the only pro team in this city struggles to win and talk of a new arena for the Magic meets opposition. A baseball stadium would need a retractable roof, as it rains every afternoon in the summer in Florida. Would it cost $250 million dollars? Easily. So, the bottom line. Will Orlando spend the money to become a big league city? It should, because like it or not, this late bloomer is going to be one of major cities of the southeast in the next decade.

  6. Marlinscatcher31234 says:

    Where I think the Marlins should move is to Indianapolis.One reason is that the city of Indinapolis is rich in sports history it is also it is an attractive city.If you haven’t noticed the Indinapolis Colts (NFL) will be moving out of the RCA Dome in 2008.Besides Texas already has two teams the Texas Rangers and the Houston.Also if they move to Indy they should switch over to the American Leauge Central to even out with the 6 teams the NL Central already has.

  7. Randy Meeker says:

    First of all, the NL West is already a 5 team division, so the likely solution is moving the Rockies to the Central and Pirates from Central to East if the team does move to Portland. If it’s San Antonio, then the Rockies stay in the West but Pittsburgh still moves to the East. I don’t think the so-called regional solution is viable as far as a middle ground location. Put it in San Antonio because it’s the larger city and people will still make the drive from Austin, especially on the weekends. I live about 90 minutes from Minute Maid Park in Houston, but I still make the drive a few times a month, depending on who they’re playing. San Antonio has the best fans in the NBA bar none. This is partially due to the fact that the Spurs are the only game in town. I think San Antonio is better off with a baseball team than a football team. Most people there are Cowboy fans already, so I don’t know how they would adjust to buying into the new team, although they did a great job of supporting the Saints last year. Having an MLB team there would be a great way to bridge the gap between the Spurs and football over the summer. Football in the area is mostly about the Longhorns and high school. Hopefully it works out there.