10 Teams That Could Be on Their Way out of Town

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2016

10 Teams That Could Be on Their Way out of Town

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    As the St. Louis Rams become the Los Angeles Rams, sports fans are left to wonder: What other teams are poised for relocation? Will the San Diego Chargers take that deal to join the Rams? Will the Golden State Warriors win their battle to move across the San Francisco Bay? 

    Moving a sports franchise is no easy task, whether it's to a new city in the same state or clear across the country (or Atlantic Ocean). 

    Yet, there is no shortage of potential cities for relocation and expansion, for that matter. The NFL-to-London dream looks more like a reality with each passing year, and MLB has even discussed a team in Mexico (h/t Fox News Latino). 

    Montreal and Portland have expressed an interest (h/t SI.com) in baseball. Las Vegas and Quebec City have put their hats in the ring for NHL expansion. Simply put, Seattle deserves another NBA team. There was a close call with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2015, but alas for former SuperSonics fans, it was not to be. 

    Here are 10 moves that could realistically happen—ranked from least likely to most. Las Vegas Raiders? It's not impossible. 

Oakland Athletics

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    Uncertainty looms regarding the future of the Oakland Raiders (more on that later), and as the situation eventually plays out, the team's co-tenant at the O.co Coliseum could be affected. 

    The Oakland Athletics signed a 10-year lease with the venue in 2014. However, Neil deMause of Sports on Earth wrote of owner Lew Wolff: "Not only is he allowed to break his new lease if Oakland and the Raiders come to an agreement to raze the Coliseum, but starting in 2018, he can depart at any time by paying off the remainder of his rent."

    The bottom line? The A's lease isn't exactly rock solid. If the Raiders eventually leave, the A's could potentially work with Oakland to build a new facility at the current site of O.co. If the Raiders stay, who knows? The city can't fund two new stadiums. 

    MLB blocked the team's attempt to relocate to nearby San Jose, California, in 2013, but there are plenty of other possibilities.

    In February 2013, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times listed Las Vegas, Portland, San Antonio and Charlotte, North Carolina, as cities "interested in luring an MLB team." According to Shaikin, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred also seems "intrigued by" Montreal and Mexico. 

    To say the situation in Oakland is sticky and uncertain at the moment would be an understatement. 

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Sure, Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil once said the team would never leave Philadelphia, and sure, the lease at Wells Fargo Arena runs through 2029. Still, give this a chance. 

    Rumors of a move to New Jersey swirled in 2013 and 2014 after owner Josh Harris bought the New Jersey Devils. At the time, John Gonzalez of CSN Philly reported it would be "difficult" for the Sixers to break their lease (but not impossible). 

    Here are a few items of circumstantial evidence pointing to a possible move: Harris owns the Devils, the 76ers are building a new practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, and the team plans to move all office operations there as well. 

    In June, Dan McQuade of PhillyMag.com pointed to a disagreement between the Sixers and Wells Fargo, the arena sponsor, as a sign of discontent in Philly.

    Or perhaps the 76ers ownership will change hands, which could bring about location uncertainty. 

    In December, Mitch Lawrence of Forbes reported Harris and co-owner David Blitzer invested in London's Crystal Palace Football Club and want to own an NFL team overseas as well. Per Lawrence, an unnamed source said: "Their No. 1 goal is to get the NFL team in London. They want to flip the Sixers anyway." Hmm.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Expansion is a real possibility in the NHL—Quebec City and Las Vegas have both put in applications for a team. However, expansion might not be the only outlet for these cities to get teams. 

    The Carolina Hurricanes of Raleigh, North Carolina, have come up in rumors about a possible move to Quebec City, according to Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated. The team hasn't made the playoffs since 2009, and attendance has suffered in this year. 

    According to Frank Seravalli of TSN, Canes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. told TSN's Pierre LeBrun: "There's never been a discussion of any kind with anybody with the Hurricanes on that. We have one of the best arena deals in the league, if not the very best. We've been there almost 20 years. That's our home. That's where we're going to stay."

    The lease of PNC Arena lasts through 2022, but according to the public authority that manages the facility via Mike Ozanian of Forbes, the Canes ownership lost money on operating costs in the 2014-15 fiscal year. 

    Still, Karmanos is in his early 70s, and he has expressed a desire to sell the franchise but keep it in Raleigh. However, with new ownership come new possibilities. 

Texas Rangers

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    The Texas Rangers' lease with Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, will be up in 2024, at which point a move to nearby Dallas is a distinct possibility. 

    In 2014, former Arlington Mayor Richard Greene told Susan Schrock of the Star-Telegram, "I think it's unconscionable that there would ever be any consideration by any owner of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club to consider their future taking place anywhere other than Arlington."

    Yet, in September, Randy Galloway of the Star-Telegram wrote of declining attendance and ticket sales in 2015. He also reported Rangers owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will seek to get a stadium with a retractable roof to help make attendance more comfortable in the Texas heat. 

    That could happen in Arlington, of course, but Dallas could also make a play.

    According to Ken Kalthoff of NBCDFW.com, folks in Dallas are already scouting locations. Per Kalthoff, John Crawford of Downtown Dallas Inc. said, "It's come up again, and there's probably five or six different locations that it could happen that are serious locations for that kind of development."

San Diego Chargers

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    In 2015, the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers all applied for relocation to Los Angeles. Only the Rams' proposal for a stadium in Inglewood, California, was approved outright, but the Chargers have one year to decide if they will join. 

    The Chargers' application originally included a proposal for a new stadium in Carson, California, to be shared with the Oakland Raiders. 

    So, will the Chargers move to L.A.? In late January, chairman Dean Spanos said in a statement, "We have an option and an agreement with the Los Angeles Rams to go to Inglewood in the next year, but my focus is on San Diego," per Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today

    In late February, the Chargers released a statement indicating their plan to seek approval for a multi-use facility in downtown San Diego. Part of the statement read, "Our goal is to win voter approval in November 2016 for a downtown multi-use stadium/convention center facility and to facilitate the best possible community uses for the existing Mission Valley site."

    Attempts are clearly being made to keep the team in San Diego, but the Chargers could still be off to L.A. if voters don't approve the downtown project. 

Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C. in 2005 and became the Washington Nationals. In the years since, Montreal has often come up as a possible relocation or expansion destination.

    In May, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred met with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre to discuss the possibly of baseball's return to the city. Per Paul Hagen of MLB.com, Coderre said: "There is room for another team in Canada. There is a market. Can you imagine to have the Blue Jays or the Yankees or the Red Sox coming to Montreal?"

    The Tampa Bay Rays seem particularly primed for a move, mostly because of their stadium situation with Tropicana Field. The Rays have been dead last in average attendance for the past four years, per data from ESPN.com, despite having competitive teams for two of those years (92 wins in 2013, 90 wins in 2012). 

    In July, Manfred said there were no existing plans to relocate the Rays, but he didn't completely rule it out in the future, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The commissioner called the attendance issues "facility-related."

    Maury Brown of Forbes suggested the Rays play a few regular-season games in Montreal as early as 2016. And in mid-February, Francois Cardinal of the French newspaper La Presse even proposed a "shared custody" situation, where the Rays would play part of the season in Montreal and part in Tampa, per Topkin.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    In February, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called a pro team in London a "realistic possibility," according to Michael David Smith of NBC Sports. 

    If that team doesn't come via expansion, the Jacksonville Jaguars come to mind as a target for relocation. The Jags have played a home game at London's Wembley Stadium every year since 2013 and will continue to do so until at least 2020. 

    Melissa Jacobs of the Guardian explored the possibility of a permanent move to London for the Jags. She cited two Jaguars employees working out of the NFL U.K. office and the "Union Jax" fan club as evidence of building momentum.   

    The team's lack of success in Jacksonville has provided further fuel for the relocation rumor fire. San Diego has even come up as a possible destination. In September, Lauren Phinney of KUSI News in San Diego wrote, "For years, the Jaguars have been struggling in the NFL, both on the field and in television ratings."

Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders have been trying to get a new stadium in Oakland for years, to no avail. 

    To that end, the team tried, and failed, to get approval for a move to Los Angeles in 2016. The San Diego Chargers have one year to decide if they want to join the L.A. Rams in their new stadium, but if they decline, the Raiders could, conceivably, still move to the City of Angels.  

    With L.A. off the table for now, several other cities have emerged as possible relocation targets. According to Bleacher Report's Jason Cole, San Antonio has been tossed around, and ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t SB Nation) reported that San Diego is a possibility; however, the front-runner seems to be Las Vegas. According to John Breech of CBSSports.com, Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson has come forward with a stadium proposal, and Raiders owner Mark Davis has personally visited the site. 

    In the meantime, it looks like the Raiders will remain at O.co Coliseum in Oakland for at least one more year. They took the relocation request off the table and re-upped their lease for 2016.   

    Barring a change of heart on the part of Oakland city officials that would make a new stadium deal possible, the Raiders could be out as early as 2017.

Arizona Coyotes

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    In addition to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers have been the subject of relocation rumors in the NHL. An $86 million public funds package quelled the rumors about Florida in December, but Arizona could still be on the table. 

    After a legal dispute over the Gila River Arena lease, the Coyotes and the city of Glendale, Arizona, were able to come to an agreement on a two-year extension in July. Remaining in Glendale long term is far from a foregone conclusion, however. 

    In fact, at this point, a relocation out of Glendale appears imminent, but the state of Arizona should keep its NHL team. 

    In December, co-owner Anthony Leblanc suggested a shared arena with the NBA's Phoenix Suns or with Arizona State University in Tempe. Neither would require a significant geographical change, but based on how Glendale fans reacted to the aforementioned legal dispute, they wouldn't likely take relocation too well. 

    Leblanc told Yahoo's Josh Cooper: "Obviously the city of Phoenix has been very open. From the city of Phoenix's perspective, if they can have two teams in that facility, it makes all the sense in the world."

    In January, Scott Burnside of ESPN.com reported the joint facility with ASU appears to be the most likely outcome. 

Golden State Warriors

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    Oakland to San Francisco might not be far geographically, but it is out of town, nonetheless, and such a move would be impactful for Bay Area residents.

    In October, the Golden State Warriors announced plans to purchase land in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco near a University of California, San Francisco campus and new hospital. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "The Warriors hope to have the arena up and running in time for the 2018-19 NBA season."

    While the wheels are in motion for the NBA champs to leave Oakland, it is far from a done deal. Pending litigation from opponents has ensured a potential move couldn't happen until at least 2019. 

    One letter to San Francisco mayor Ed Lee read, "The resulting perfect storm of traffic would make it miserable for both the existing neighborhood and for sports fans—in addition to threatening the entire future of UCSF as the center of a world-class academic/biotech/medical complex," according to the San Francisco Examiner.  

    The opposition is a speed bump, but Warriors spokesperson Raymond Ridder still said, "We are 100 percent focused on playing in Chase Center in 2019," per Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times.