Almost 15 years since the ill-fated Grizzlies left town, a report from The Conference Board of Canada is suggesting Vancouver will reach the size and wealth to support another NBA team within the next 20 years.
“Although Vancouver’s previous basketball experience ended with the Grizzlies franchise moving to Memphis and some ill-will in the city toward the National Basketball Association (NBA), the market conditions exist for another franchise to be successful,” said Glen Hodgson, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist. “With Vancouver’s steady rise in population, high income levels, and a strong corporate presence, the NBA could return one day, especially if the Canadian dollar remains strong.”
The report notes that with Vancouver’s population expected to increase by more than a million people over the next 20 years, the city could support another professional sports franchise. However, despite the population increase, the market would not be large enough to support a MLB franchise or second NHL team, making a NBA resurrection much more likely.
The chances of success for another franchise was based upon three aspects; market pillars, league competitive conditions, and franchise specific factors, such as ownership and management strength, playing facilities, and fan support.
When the Grizzlies departed for Memphis following the 2000–01 season, Vancouver’s population was only slightly above 2 million and the Canadian dollar was in a downward spiral towards a historic low of 61.98 cents (U.S.). In short, despite the pleas of the Grizzlies fanbase, keeping the team in town did not make sense on a business level.
However, in 2012, the Vancouver region had almost 2.5 million people, disposable income per capita was fifth among major Canadian cities, and Vancouver had 94 of Canada’s 800 largest corporations.
In addition, competitive conditions in the NBA are relatively favourable for a Vancouver franchise, due to a cap on player salaries mandated in the latest collective bargaining agreement.
The major challenge will be to find committed ownership and astute management. Given that the departure of the previous NBA franchise left hard feelings among many fans and community leaders, new owners would need to rebuild support for professional basketball in the Vancouver market.
With the increasing number of pre-season NBA games being played in Vancouver, including the Toronto Raptors hosting the Sacramento Kings at Rogers Arena on October 5, the level of support seems to be rising, making the return of the NBA to Vancouver increasingly more likely.
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