Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Tucson Beavers?

The Portland Beavers, AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres, announced that they would be playing next season in Tucson. I would like to consider this move from the point of optimal team location in minor league baseball (see this post from last year for details on my model). The move is complicated by the fact that the eventual plan is to have the team play in Escondido near the major league affiliate in San Diego, and is probably only using Tucson as a temporary home for a year or two. For now I will just talk about the Portland to Tucson move and then look at the Escondido angle in a future post.

On the face of it this move does not make a whole lot of sense. According to my model, Portland would be the second most likely city, amongst those without major league baseball, to have a AAA team. Tucson is 46th. I estimate that Portland has a 79% chance of having a AAA team, Tucson has a 15% chance. These rankings should not be too much of a surprise, as Portland has a metropolitan area population of approximately 2.2 million and Tucson's is just over a million.

However, there is the complicating factor of the stadium issue. The Beavers stadium in Portland is being renovated for use for the soccer team in the city. When I developed my model it was based on the idea that the city's willingness to build stadiums for team was endogenous to all of the other factors (population, income etc.). But there may also be other idiosyncratic factors related to willingness to construct a stadium that I could not account for. In this case the stadium situation pretty much precipitated a move. It also explains why a team might move for what might be a one-year stay.

Given that a move was required, Tucson makes a lot of sense. Even though it is ranked 46th, the two cities (Des Moines and Syracuse) right in front of it in the rankings also have AAA teams, so it is not completely out of line with other AAA cities. If the PCL wanted to keep the team out west, Tucson was the best choice, as the westernmost city ranked higher than Tucson is San Antonio. Lastly, since this might be a temporary move, Tucson does not have a AA or A team being disrupted by the move like San Antonio or Boise would have. Also, Tucson had a AAA team as recently as 2008, so it has a suitable stadium.

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