With NCAA athletes now able to make money from sponsorships using their name, likeness, and image, potentially earning them thousands of dollars per year, a new report shows where  2021’s Best Sports Cities are located.

To determine the cities where the game is always on regardless of season, WalletHub compared 392 small to large cities across the five largest sports in the U.S.: football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer.

Here’s the list:

Best Large Sports Cities
1. Boston, MA
2. Los Angeles, CA
3. New York, NY
4. Pittsburgh, PA
5. Philadelphia, PA
6. Denver, CO
7. Washington, DC
8. Dallas, TX
9. Chicago, IL
10. Miami, FL


Best Midsize Sports Cities
1. Buffalo, NY
2. Green Bay, WI
3. Salt Lake City, UT
4. Orlando, FL
5. Glendale, AZ
6. Durham, NC
7. Ann Arbor, MI
8. Baton Rouge, LA
9. South Bend, IN
10. Norman, OK


Best Small Sports Cities
1. Clemson, SC
2. West Point, NY
3. Fayette, MS
4. East Lansing, MI
5. Tuscaloosa, AL
6. Hanover, NH
7. State College, PA
8. Buies Creek, NC
9. Stanford, CA
10. Morgantown, WV

Best vs. Worst

  • Cookeville, Tennessee, has the lowest minimum season-ticket price for a college football (FBS and FCS) game, $36.00, which is 31.9 times lower than in South Bend, Indiana, the city with the highest at $1,150.00.
  • Charlotte, North Carolina, has the lowest average ticket price for an NBA game, $32.05, which is 3.9 times lower than in San Francisco, the city with the highest at $125.43.
  • NHL fans in Pittsburgh are 28.1 times friendlier and more engaged than their New York counterparts.
  • Pittsburgh has the lowest average MLB ticket price, $20.75, which is 2.9 times lower than in Boston, the city with the highest at $60.09.
  • Atlanta has the highest attendance rate for MLS games, 163.06 percent, which is 8.1 times higher than in Chicago, the city with the lowest at 20.04 percent.

What makes a good sports city?

“Winning is great, but die-hard fans are at the heart of any good sports city. When people passionately support the hometown team(s) through the ups and downs of competition, that feeling reverberates throughout the city and the sport. A strong sports culture is also important. If sports are not valued and supported in a particular region, local games and sporting events feel like any other date on the calendar,” said Windy Dees, Ph.D., professor at the University of Miami.

“A good sports city is comprised of multiple professional and college sports teams (preferably teams that have a history of success with championships), a lively downtown area with several entertainment options, a host city with a team that is a part of the historic rivalry, and a strong connection between the sports brands and the culture of the city and region,” according to Joseph N. Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

What was the impact of the pandemic on the sports industry?

“The economic losses to the sports industry due to the pandemic are well documented. These losses are in the billions and include hits not only to the owners and players but to everyone involved with the industry. There are several lessons to be learned from the pandemic. Sports organizations have become more aware of and involved in social movements. Teams will increasingly personalize the fan experience. Fans will demand more in-depth access to players. Safety will continue to be a priority,” according to
Doug Blais, Ph.D., Professor at Southern New Hampshire University.

“Evaluating the impact of the pandemic on the sports industry requires an examination of the short-term and long-term effects of the pandemic. Initially (short-term), the pandemic was devastating for teams and leagues. NFL revenues decreased by over 5 billion dollars during the year when fans were not admitted. However, early indications appear to show that fandom will increase in the aftermath of the pandemic. This is speculative at this point, but it appears that fans had taken sport for granted, missed it when it was “gone”, and now feel more committed to their fandom. How long this effect will last is again speculative, but it appears that fans are more likely to consume the sport product after not being able to do so during the pandemic,” said Brian J. Wigley, a professor at Shenandoah University.

To what extent do sports teams reflect the cities they call home?

“Teams reflect their fan base in the players and coaches they draft/recruit. Los Angeles is a Hollywood city and the Lakers have consistently recruited superstar players and coaches. New York and the Yankees are similar in this regard. In blue-collar towns like Buffalo and Cleveland, it is most often the players that are drafted and developed in the system that are embraced by their fans. The coaches that display the blue-collar values are also appreciated and supported by the fans,” said Jennifer VanSickle, Ed.D.,  professor at the University of Indianapolis

“Sports teams should reflect the character of their cities, both in brand and roster composition. Philly fans want gritty players, while Los Angeles fans want stars. Generally, the larger the city, the more intolerant the fans are of losing. Fans in Kansas City will be patient while the Royals have some down years, but Yankee fans expect to win every game and will stay home in droves if the team is not performing. This is reflected in a team’s on-field approach; the Yankees are always in a ‘win-now mode,”
Mark Cryan, Ph.D. , said an assistant professor at Elon University.

Source: WalletHub