Best Cities for Sports Fans

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There is no better time to be a sports fan than the month of May. The NBA and NHL playoffs are under way, and baseball season is moving into full swing. Jerseys are drenched with sweat, beers are cracked by the dozen and friendships dissolve as hidden loyalties become apparent.  Every city has their share of fair weather fans, but we’ve taken a hard look at the data to find out which are truly the best cities for sports fans. Grab your peanuts and crackerjacks as we dive right into NerdWallet’s list of the best cities for sports fans.

We analyzed the data to bring you a list of the twelve best cities for sports fans according to the following four questions:

1. Does the city have all four major sports?  Only cities with all four major sports (MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA) in the city’s combined statistical area (as defined by the Census) were included in the top cities.

2. Do fans attend the games?  We included attendance at home games as a percentage of stadium capacity in the calculation.

3. Can fans afford to attend the games? We included the average cost of NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA tickets.

4. Does the city have a sports culture?  We assessed the sports culture by the number of sports bars in the city.

For more information, check out our Cost of Living Calculator and our City Life tool.

Best cities for sports fans

1.    Dallas, TX

Cowboys fans have seen football at its best (most of the Aikman era) and at its worst (Romo), but they fill the stadium past capacity every game.  The Mavericks, Rangers and Stars have their share of sell-out games as well, with each team filling out over 78% of the stadium on average.  Though ticket prices are steep, there are plenty of sports bars in Dallas where you can watch the game for the price of a beer.

2.    Chicago, IL

Chicago is always with da Bears, and every Bulls fan is waiting for the moment when Rose flies like Jordan did.  Chicago has 1/3 the population of New York, but has almost the same number of sports bars.  Chicago’s rich sports culture is obvious—Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks all have sold out home games all season.

3.    Detroit, MI

Detroit isn’t called Hockeytown for nothing.  The Red Wings sell out almost every game they play in Detroit.  Fans of America’s pastime are in luck as well—Tigers games average over 80% attendance, and the tickets are reasonably priced, making attending games affordable.

4.    New York, NY

From the Garden to the (Strong) Island, New York fans do not forget their teams. The Five Boroughs may not be united in their allegiance, but no one can match their passion.  New York has the most sports bars of any other city, and the Knicks, Giants and Rangers all average almost 100% attendance rates. Oh, and the Yankees have been the kings of baseball for the last century.

5.    San Francisco, CA

The golden era of SF sports has not gone unnoticed by fans. Long lines are here to stay as the 49ers, Giants and Sharks remain regular championship contenders.  San Francisco averages almost 100% attendance at games for all four major sports.  While there aren’t a ton of sports bars in the city, attending the games is affordable for sports fans—tickets for Giants and Warriors games run about $30 each.

6.    Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis sports fans can afford to attend games, thanks to the reasonably priced tickets for Twins and Timberwolves games. Enthusiasm for the Vikings and Wild remains high, as both teams have made recent playoff appearances. Vikings fans show their dedication with 95% attendance, especially for games against archrival Green Bay Packers – thousands brave the bitter cold to tailgate before these games in mid-winter.  Plus, don’t forget that Minnesota is nicknamed the State of Hockey, which locals make clear with attendance at Wild games over 100% this season.  Minneapolis will also be home to the 2014 MLB All-Star game, too, as the Midsummer Classic visits Target Field, one of the newest ballparks in the majors.

7.    Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix fans brave the summer heat to show their support. Chase Field, the home of the Diamondbacks, has a pool in right field for fans to cool off in, and the park also boasts low beer prices and low ticket prices.   Although the Cardinals and Suns are priming to rebuild, attendance has still been relatively high at both team’s venues, indicating a high level of fan engagement.

8.    Denver, CO

The Broncos and Nuggets bring full stadiums to Denver, and while the Rockies aren’t quite as popular, at least their tickets are cheap. The Nuggets are perpetually in the playoffs, and the Broncos have emerged as serious contenders of late. While the Rockies haven’t made the postseason in a few seasons, they’ve become famous around baseball for thrilling fans with late September surges.

9.    Miami, FL

The party capital of the USA is also a major basketball capital, with LeBron James’ high-flying antics leading the Heat to their first title since Shaq traded in his shorts for a suit. And their other teams aren’t bad either.  The Heat and the Panthers consistently pack stadiums completely. The Marlins, however, have a new stadium but few fans to fill it with.

10. Philadelphia, PA

The City that Loves You Back, and the city of terrible nicknames (Bobby “Clarkie” Clarke; Mike “Schmitty” Schmidt; etc.) is also a city full of invincible sports fans. From the Flyers to the Eagles, Philly never lets their fans down.  The Eagles and Flyers regularly fill stadiums past capacity.

11. Boston, MA

With completely full stadiums for three out of four major sports, it’s clear that Boston residents are sports-lovers.  Although the tickets are very pricey, Bostonians can hunker down at one of the sports bars on every block to watch the game. Boston has some of the most iconic franchises in sports and one of the most hallowed ballparks in Fenway Park.

12. Washington, DC

The nation’s capital is great for sports fans, with affordable tickets to basketball and baseball games. Recent enthusiasm for the rebuilt franchises of the Redskins and Nationals is running high, as both teams have electrified their fan bases with recent successes. Together with the Capitals, all three teams have a few of the most dynamic players in their respective sports.

Rank City Sport Team Avg ticket price Attendance # sports bars Overall Score
1 Dallas         132 65.7
NFL Cowboys $110.20 110.7%
MLB Rangers $22.54 78.2%
NBA Mavericks $49.45 104.4%
NHL Stars $36.09 92.1%
2 Chicago 173 64.2
NFL Bears $110.91 101.3%
MLB Cubs (and White Sox) $44.55 77.0%
NBA Bulls $68.37 104.6%
NHL Blackhawks $62.88 110.4%
3 Detroit 111 57.3
NFL Lions $67.60 98.9%
MLB Tigers $23.36 83.9%
NBA Pistons $41.26 67.0%
NHL Red Wings $53.28 100.0%
4 New York City 204 56.1
NFL Giants (and Jets) $111.69 97.6%
MLB Yankees (and Mets) $51.55 73.7%
NBA Knicks (and Nets) $117.47 96.3%
NHL Rangers (and Islanders) $72.04 100.0%
5 San Francisco 65 54.6
NFL 49ers $83.54 99.3%
MLB Giants $30.09 99.6%
NBA Warriors $34.13 98.9%
NHL Sharks $51.47 100.0%
6 Minneapolis 81 48.4
NFL Vikings $75.69 94.7%
MLB Twins $32.59 70.2%
NBA Timberwolves $31.50 84.4%
NHL Wild $62.63 104.7%
7 Phoenix 89 48.2
NFL Cardinals $68.00 96.0%
MLB Diamondbacks $16.89 55.3%
NBA Suns $60.63 83.8%
NHL Coyotes $40.32 81.3%
8 Denver 74 47.0
NFL Broncos $82.23 100.7%
MLB Rockies $23.65 56.7%
NBA Nuggets $47.30 93.0%
NHL Avalanche $40.62 85.8%
9 Miami 101 47.0
NFL Dolphins $71.14 76.3%
MLB Marlins $29.27 50.4%
NBA Heat $67.00 102.0%
NHL Panthers $55.75 99.7%
10 Philadelphia 70 46.2
NFL Eagles $69.00 102.3%
MLB Phillies $37.42 84.0%
NBA 76ers $39.25 82.2%
NHL Flyers $71.59 101.3%
11 Boston 77 38.5
NFL Patriots $117.84 100.0%
MLB Red Sox $53.38 87.5%
NBA Celtics $68.55 100.0%
NHL Bruins $64.39 100.0%
12 Washington, DC 41 33.1
NFL Redskins $79.13 86.9%
MLB Nationals $35.24 76.6%
NBA Wizards $23.64 80.6%
NHL Capitals $73.75 95.8%

Methodology

The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:

  1. Average ticket price from the Team Marketing Report
  2. Attendance rate from the ESPN Attendance Report
  3. Number of sports bars from the Yellow Pages
  4. Presence of all 4 major sports teams

The attendance rate and ticket price data displayed is for the first team listed, not the team in parenthesis.  The attendance rate for some teams is above 100% because some stadiums have standing-room-only seating, allowing the stadiums to us to fit extra fans into the stadium.

All U.S. cities were included in this analysis.