Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Sports Factor

A common theme of this blog is the poor (or perhaps horrendous) branding of Rochester.  The metro area offers world-class universities, an elite music school, one of the nation's largest wine regions, seven percent of the world's fresh water supply, top-shelf public education, a history of truly iconic companies and convention-challenging personalities, and remarkable creativity and ingenuity.  Yet I have been asked ludicrous questions such as:

  1. Do they have soccer leagues for children?
  2. Do they have taxis? and
  3. Do they have Uber? (Okay, maybe not so ludicrous a question)
Such interrogation is obviously somewhat irritating, and it is also somewhat shocking.  How can a reasonably sized metro area be so misunderstood?

While many contributors are in play, one simple explanation involves the sports factor.  Similarly sized regions achieve an element of name recognition (i.e. branding) via the presence of major sports teams.  A look at some of America's biggest money makers (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, Division I college football, and Division I college basketball) illustrates why Rochester is mired in anonymity:

  • New Orleans MSA (population 1,251,849): NFL, NBA, DI football, DI basketball (2)
  • Raleigh, NC MSA (population 1,242,974): NHL, DI football* (3), DI basketball* (3)
  • Salt Lake City MSA (population 1,153,340): NBA, MLS, DI football, DI basketball
  • Buffalo MSA (population 1,136,360): NFL, NHL, DI football, DI basketball (3)
  • Rochester, NY MSA (population 1,083,393): NOTHING!         

MSA=Metropolitan Statistical Area
*Includes nearby MSAs
2014 population estimates   


  1. It is sad, but in the eyes of many not having a big name sports team automatically disqualifies Rochester from being a "major" city. I think we could easily support a team, but since Buffalo is seen as the sports city in western NY I just don't see a team coming to Rochester in the near future. Unfortunately people seem all too happy to support teams from another city than our own minor league teams much of the time.

  2. You forgot D1 Men's Ice Hockey from RIT.

  3. You are right in naming what we don't have, but we do have a lot of sports that bring some recognition to the area.

    We have major league women's soccer (Western New York Flash), major league indoor lacrosse (Rochester Knighthawks), major league outdoor lacrosse (Rochester Rattlers), and minor league hockey (Rochester Americans), minor league basketball (Rochester Razorsharks) minor league men's soccer (Rochester Rhinos), minor league baseball (Red Wings), Division I men's and women's hockey (RIT) and many years we have a Division I basketball game played at the Blue Cross Arena (Saint Bonaventure). We also have Division II and III college sports.

    We had men's and women's golf on a regular basis. The 2023 PGA Championship is an upcoming major event that will be hosted by the Oak Hill Country Club. And Rochester is the only city to have hosted the PGA Championship, the US Open, the Ryder Cup, the US Amateur, the U.S. Senior Open, and the LPGA Championship.

    We also host the Buffalo Bills training camp every year at St. John Fisher College.

    With all of this, I would say that we have a great variety of sports to choose from with reasonable priced tickets. These teams do provide us some recognition in the cities where their counterparts play.

    I just wish more people would support the teams we do have. Get out there and try these teams. You will find an enjoyable experience!

  4. While I do enjoy the affordable-ness of our minor league sports, being happy for recognition in the couple cities that are paired up with our minor league teams sounds like we're settling for second best. I'd rather see Rochester get some regular national exposure. Minor league sports are becoming less and less relevant outside of "development" of talent.

    You are right about the PGA thing though, we have a very rich golf culture around here.

  5. I agree that Rochester has an immense number of enjoyable sporting events as listed in the comments. Unfortunately, the lack of the Big 7 (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, DI football, and DI basketball) means that we don't get regular national exposure. This lack of recognition feeds into the perception that Rochester is not a big time city. In reality, Rochester has MANY big time elements in terms of education, music, art, museums, certain sporting events, etc., but we are stuck with a certain outside perception. Basically, we have to work harder than average to exhibit how great it can be to live here. (Obviously jobs are key, but I think addressing this perception gap is also very important.)