By Joel Norman, Originally published for Sports Heaven
Not every sports franchise will succeed.
Success in sports is not only about winning championships but building a brand.
For every franchise like the Chicago Cubs, there’s plenty like Seattle Pilots (that said, lasting only one season is a record). For every Montreal Canadiens, there’s a Quebec Nordiques.
Haven’t heard of two of the aforementioned franchises? That’s not surprising. They failed to build a brand and died because of it. Relocation is the equivalent to death in the sports world.
In 2016, there are plenty of successful franchises, but there are also plenty of unsuccessful franchises. Which teams need to leave their current cities?
Note: List does not include the San Diego Chargers or the Oakland Raiders since both are already engaged in talks of leaving their current cities.
5. Atlanta Hawks
They have been successful, so why relocate? Because the fans don’t care.
Two seasons ago, the Hawks had the Eastern Conference’s best record, yet only finished 17th in the NBA in attendance, filling only 93 percent of the Philips Arena per game.
The Hawks will not be leaving Atlanta too soon because they are renovating the Philips Arena and signed a lease to remain in Atlanta through 2046.
Could this fix attendance issues? Hard to say. After back-to-back playoff appearances, the Hawks are only filling 84.4 percent of their arena this season.
For a franchise that has not won a championship since 1958, the Hawks desperately need some revitalization. Whether that is the arena renovations or a championship, it’s hard to say.
Changing the arena might help for a season, but if fans won’t show up while the team is competitive, will they continue to go even if the arena looks better? Probably not. Time for the Hawks to go.
4. New York Islanders
On one hand, the Islanders are not in a bad shape. In May they won their first playoff series since 1993 and have a young, skilled team led by 26-year-old captain Jonathan Tavares. They have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and are in their second season in the Barclays Center after leaving the obsolete Nassau Coliseum.
On the other hand, the Islanders are last in the Eastern Conference this season and are second-to-last in the NHL in attendance, averaging 12,471 fans per game.
Attendance in the last two seasons has been an issue (Islanders averaged 13,625 fans per game last season), as has the ice at the Barclays Center. Moving to an arena 50 minutes away has problematic for the Islanders and they may soon be at their third arena in four seasons.
The Islanders have been on Long Island since they joined the NHL in 1972. Relocation may not mean leaving New York, it means leaving Long Island.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
Two NHL teams on this list. Not a good sign, considering both on this list are American teams.
The Hurricanes popped up in relocation rumors last week when 98.5 sports in Montreal reported that Carolina owner Peter Karmanos is interested in getting rid of the team.
Whether or not this rumor is true, it only adds fire to the fuel. This is an underwhelming franchise that currently ranks last in the NHL in average attendance per home game (11,189) and has spent the last two seasons in the cellar of the NHL’s average attendance.
The Hurricanes have only lasted in Carolina because of the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship and for appearing in the 2002 Stanley Cup Final. That said, the Hurricanes haven’t been relevant in 10 years.
Since that championship season, the Hurricanes have made the playoffs once and that was seven years ago. In 18 seasons, Carolina has made the playoffs five times and that all came in the first 11 seasons. The only time that the Hurricanes made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons was 2001 and 2002.
Even though Karmanos has denied rumors that he wants to sell the franchise, it’s time for the Hurricanes to go. The fans are not interested in this measly hockey team and the team has not given its fans much reason to be excited.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
2016 has been a letdown, but so has every other season for this team.
The on-field product is so bad in Jacksonville that the Jaguars have to build a pool and install the world’s largest scoreboard at the time of its construction in 2014.
The Jaguars continue to divert their attention away from the playing field because it’s been so bad. This season, the Jaguars draw 62,002 fans per game at a 67,246 seat stadium.
Jacksonville hasn’t made the playoff since 2007 and is a combined 41-97 since then. The Jaguars twice appeared in the AFC Championship Game (1996, 1999), but have never reached the Super Bowl in 22 seasons. There is no history of success to sell to fans.
It’s time for them to move on.
1: Tampa Bay Rays
Two words: Tropicana Field.
It is without a doubt, the worst stadium in MLB. There are catwalks on the ceiling and the Tampa Bay Lightning used to play at “The Trop.”
The Rays have spent five consecutive seasons averaging the fewest fans per game in the league. That includes 2013, when the Rays made the playoffs and went 92-71 and only filled 54.7 of Tropicana Field. In 2011, the Rays managed to get out of the attendance cellar, only to finish 29th.
Last season, the Rays averaged 15,878 fans per game. Who wants to see a cruddy team that went 68-94 and has missed the playoffs in 15 of 19 seasons.
Here’s something even scarier: in 2008, when the Rays advanced to the World Series, they only filled 52.8 percent of Tropicana Field, 24th in MLB.
Pull the plug on this team. The experiment has failed.