The Chron has a longish article about the prospects of an American sports franchise moving to or being founded in Mexico City. It has the standard reasons why a league (most likely the NBA or Major League Baseball) might do this, but I think it overlooks some obvious reasons why not.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle will be finding a suitable stadium. The mayor has talked of two options — building a new stadium in the district of Azcapotzalco (the northwest part of the city) or renovating and covering the existing Foro Sol, home of Mexico City’s Diablos Rojos of the Mexican Baseball League.
I can think of two other hurdles that would need to be surmounted before anything serious happens. One is distance, as Mexico City is about 700 miles from Houston. It’s a five-hour flight to Mexico City from New York, not much less than a flight to Los Angeles. Any franchise located there will easily have the most grueling travel schedule in its league. Probably not a deal-breaker, but it’s a burden on that club both in terms of player recruitment and player fatigue.
More important is the question of currency. Canadian teams are often at a disadvantage in signing and retaining players because they pay in Canadian dollars and are subject to Canadian taxes. I can’t imagine any player accepting his salary in pesos, and I can’t help but think that having to continually exchange between pesos and dollars will be a big headache, not to mention a unique operating expense. Again, this may or may not be a dealbreaker, but it certainly deserves a mention in a story about the feasibility of locating a franchise in Mexico.
I do think southward expansion is coming, perhaps as a single franchise up front, perhaps as a subsidiary league a la the World League of American Football. It’s been talked about for some time now, though, and I’m not convinced we’re any closer to overcoming the associated obstacles than we were back in 1994 when the Oilers and Cowboys played their exhibition game in Azteca Stadium. I figure I’ll read a lot more of these articles before I read one about an actual relocation or expansion.
UPDATE: I stand corrected. As Greg V. notes in the comments, Canadian sports franchises pay salaries in American dollars as a rule. Of course, while that does mean they shouldn’t have problems with player recruitment as I had thought, the fact that they generate revenues in Canadian dollars serves to support the point I was making: currency conversion issues, especially for a team that will be operating in Mexico, will be a significant obstacle to overcome before a franchise can be located there.