Admittedly, every time I hear the rumors that Virginia Beach (Virginia Fucking Beach!) is pursuing an NBA team, I chuckle a little. In my mind I compare it to that time Tacoma city officials announced they were investigating the possibility of luring a professional basketball team to town. Good luck with that. It's like me proclaiming I'm interested in luring a super model to my bed, and my wife's going to be cool with it. Again, good luck with that.
But these Kings-to-Virginia Beach rumors just wont die, as evident by the latest story indicating Virginia Beach's mayor recently met with representatives from an NBA team about moving a squad to town (presumably the representatives from the Kings). And Sonics fans desperately frothing for the team's return -- and circling the Kings as a possible target -- can't help but take note of these rumors, no matter how stupid they sound.
Sure, the idea of an NBA team in Virginia Beach sounds batshit crazy, but is it?
Probably. But there are real considerations to mull.
As Matthew Yglesias pointed out for Slate in late August, there are actually a lot more people in Virginia Beach than you might think. And, perhaps more importantly, if the Kings do move to Virginia Beach, the team will have no competition (because, well, no one has been crazy enough to locate a pro sports team in Virginia Beach yet).
The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitan statistical area isn't that small. It's bigger than Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, New Orleans, or Memphis--all of which have NBA teams--and it's just very slightly smaller than Indianapolis. And unlike the Bucks, Hornets, or Pacers, a Virginia Beach Kings squad wouldn't need to compete with any other pro sports teams. And in a lot of ways, avoiding competition seems to be a big factor in NBA franchise success. Obviously the ideal location is to be in a giant city, but barring the availability of New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, the "find a smallish city with no MLB, NFL, or NHL competition" strategy seems to be a pretty sound route to a consistent fan base.
Today the Associated Press expounds on the notion that size isn't everything when it comes to being home to an NBA team:
A study paid for by the [Virginia Beach] and released on Tuesday says Las Vegas, Seattle, Kansas City, Louisville, Ky. and Anaheim, Calif. are also potential relocation markets.
The study notes that with the exception of Louisville, each of those metropolitan areas is larger than Virginia Beach. However, the study also notes that Seattle, Kansas City and Anaheim already have multiple major league franchises, bringing their population per franchise down to relatively comparable or smaller levels than Virginia Beach. Among NBA and NHL markets, the study says Virginia Beach's median household income of $54,122 would rank 25th out of 43 markets, or less than $200 than the average for all markets.
Not to be outdone, The Sacramento Bee, in its story on Virginia Beach's mayor meeting with representatives from the Kings, throws a bit of water on the size-isn't-everything argument:
The Virginia Beach City Council on Tuesday heard two consultants' financial reports, [Virginia Beach city spokesman Marc Davis] said. The reports indicated that Virginia Beach is comparable demographically to a number of NBA cities, and that an arena would be a financial boon to the city and region.
However, a consultant's comparison of NBA and NHL cities shows Sacramento has a higher population, higher median income and bigger corporate base than Virginia Beach, but a lower median income after taxes and living expenses.
The analysis also shows that Sacramento's metropolitan area population ranks it sixth in the U.S. and Canada out of 43 NBA and NHL cities in a calculation that is based on population per major league franchise. Sacramento, with only one major league team, the Kings, ranks just ahead of Los Angeles, where a much larger population is divided among six major league teams. Virginia Beach ranks 15th in that analysis.
What do we make of all this? Is it possible the Kings could relocate to Virginia Beach? Sure, it's possible. Perhaps even more possible than skeptics (like me) are willing to acknowledge.
But still ... It's Virginia Fucking Beach. However you cut it, the idea still seems like a long shot -- and probably more about current Kings ownership gaining leverage with a more alluring town (like, say, Anaheim) than anything else.