GREENSBORO, N.C., Posted 9:26 a.m. December 29, 1997 -- Sports economists say it could
be deja vu all over again if the Minnesota Twins move to North Carolina. "When you
add it all up, I don't think the Carolinas have the wealth to do it, any more so than
Minneapolis-St. Paul," said Mark Rosentraub, an urban policy professor at the
University of Indiana-Indianapolis. "So their future is yours. What you're seeing in
Minnesota would be exactly North Carolina's outcome."
Businessman Don Beaver is trying to conclude a deal to buy the Twins and move the
big-league team to the Triad region of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.
Rosentraub said the Interstate 85 corridor in North Carolina -- running through Durham,
Greensboro and Charlotte -- is largely one sports market.
Because of that, he said, baseball will be competing for entertainment dollars against
hockey in Raleigh and the NBA's Hornets and NFL's Panthers in Charlotte. And then there is
NASCAR and the state's biggest sports lure -- Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.
Baseball backers point out that about 6 million people live within 100 miles of the
Triad. Some smaller pro franchise markets have far fewer people living nearby.
Denver, for example, has only 2.7 million people living within a 100-mile radius.
But economists say what markets like Denver -- home of baseball's Colorado Rockies, the
Nuggets of the NBA, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the NFL's Broncos -- and Minneapolis
lack in people, they make up for in wealth, the News & Record of Greensboro reported
Denver has 11,700 households with disposable income of about $150,000. The Triad has
5,300 such households.
Economists also say the Triad area appears inferior when compared to markets in Raleigh
The Raleigh-Durham area, which will be the permanent home of the NHL's Carolina
Hurricanes in 1999, has a median disposable income of $36,453 per household.
The Triad area has a median disposable income of $31,643 per household.
"If you look at these numbers, you'd have to ask: Why would you move from
Minneapolis to North Carolina?" said Mark Vitner, a vice president and economist at
First Union Bank in Charlotte who closely watches the business of sports.
Vitner believes baseball would enjoy a local monopoly for the sports entertainment
dollar. The Hurricanes will have left their temporary home in the Greensboro Coliseum by
the time a baseball team would make its home there. Wake Forest University in
Winston-Salem would be the main sports competitor with a major league franchise.
"Still, I think it's going to be tough," Vitner said. "The Triad just
doesn't have a large enough population or high enough income that these small-market areas
He predicts North Carolina sports franchises could face the same kinds of problems
Minneapolis is having now -- too many competitors for too few entertainment dollars and a
public that is unwilling to significantly subsidize professional sports.
But the success of Charlotte's Hornets and Panthers has made professional sport people
sit up and notice North Carolina, said Sam Katz, president of InterSport Capital Advisors
in Philadelphia. "The Triad market represents a higher level of risk for major league
baseball and for the (Triad) ownership group," said Katz, whose company specializes
in financing for sports stadiums. "But if the Charlotte sports market is any guide,
there is the potential for a successful performance in the Triad."
Katz said that is because population and income numbers don't take into account one
That is something that Hickory businessman Don Beaver, who is heading efforts to bring
baseball to North Carolina, is counting on. Even he has said that his efforts cannot
succeed without broad support from area residents.
That support will be measured in May when voters in two Triad counties decide whether
to approve a meals tax to help finance construction of a new stadium.