Figure 1 Delawareans must look further afield for their major league sports
The First State may be known for a lot of things – its history, its stunning beaches, and its tax-friendly laws – but it is not known for its major league pro sports teams. That’s because we are one of twenty-four states that do not have a single franchise in any of the four big sports leagues.
Those tax-friendly laws may be an attraction for businesses and residents alike, but they are not seemingly enough to attract an expansion team, or relocation for an underperforming team from another part of the country.
You will see in a moment that Delaware sports betting sites are right up there with the big players of Nevada and New Jersey. But those sports fans are unable to actually get along to a major league stadium and cheer on their local heroes. Is there any hope for Delaware when it comes to pro sports? Or will our businesses have to make do with the trade from fans travelling out of state to get behind their teams?
Delaware Sports Nuts
There may not be any actual teams in the state of Delaware, but it is widely acknowledged that we have some of the biggest sports obsessives in the nation. Research has shown that sports fans here want to know everything about their heroes across the major leagues.
If there is a trade rumor, Delaware residents are all over it. If there is some last-minute action in the big game, someone from this state will know about it first. Searching for information on NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL – and even UFC and WWE – is one of our favorite pastimes apparently. A study by a gambling company proves that. Only Nevada residents searched more times online per capita.
Other States with No Team
Before anyone in Delaware gets too annoyed that all that sports knowledge and love for the game has not been rewarded with a major league team to root for, it should be said that we are hardly alone. Twenty-three other states in this country fall into the same category – and there are some pretty big cities without one too.
Alabama, Arkansas, and Iowa all remain on the outside of major league sports, although it could be said that college football in all three of those states would still dominate even if they were awarded an expansion team. San Antonio and San Diego both have million-plus populations and still don’t have their own NFL team. So an entire state with just over a million residents is probably unlikely to jump that particular queue.
The sheer cost of building a stadium for an NFL franchise is so prohibitive that it is highly unlikely that football will make its way to Delaware. The owners need to agree on the location as well, so even if the league were contemplating expanding, Wilmington, Delaware would not be high up on the list.
Hockey has always looked to expand past its traditional boundaries. But southern cities with big media markets have been preferred in the past. Major League Baseball is the league that seems to be most up for expanding the team roster but Delaware cannot really compete with cities that have the history, such as Montreal, or proven sports towns like Nashville and Salt Lake City.
Wilmington, or anywhere else in the state, is unlikely to welcome NBA basketball anytime soon. But there is one local hoops team that competes at a high standard, where fans can watch the stars of the future. It has been fairly successful too. We are, of course, talking about our very own Delaware Blue Coats of the NBA G League.
Starting off in the NBA’s developmental league as the Utah Flash, the team was acquired by the 76ers ten years ago and relocated to Delaware. Now playing at the Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington, the Blue Coats have reached the last two G League finals, picking up a first championship just this year.
The Blue Coats may be a winning alternative to major league sports in Delaware but there are other professional teams in the state. There is minor league baseball and hockey available, as well as teams playing rugby league and roller derby. There’s also the University of Delaware Blue Hens football team to consider.
But it is when you come away from team sports altogether that you discover that Delaware does actually play in the big leagues, as it were. The Dover Motor Speedway is one of the tracks used in the NASCAR Cup Series and has hosted at least one race every year since 1969. The official sport of the state may be cycling, but NASCAR racing is a major draw here.
Figure 2 NASCAR is big in Delaware
Where Our Fans Go
So, if sports fans in Delaware are not likely to be able to get behind a major league team from their own state, who do they get behind? We have already shown that sports are big news here, so the fans must root for someone, right? A quick look at our location in the wider country will provide a few clues.
Local hero Elena Delle Donne has swooped up a lot of fans to root for the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, after starring for the Blue Hens hoops team. But Baltimore and Philly teams get most of the love. With both cities within easy reach, you are just as likely to bump into an Eagles fan in downtown Wilmington as one in Philadelphia.
The Future of Delaware Sports
There may not be a major league sports team coming to the state in the near future – if ever – but the future for Delaware sports and its sports fans looks bright. With such a small population, Delawareans have gotten used to getting behind the Eagles or the O’s, so it’s not really a problem.
If Major League Baseball did decide one day that Wilmington deserved a brand new expansion team, it would surely soon become the biggest show in town. But, for now, we’ll make do with our G League champions and other sports teams – and keep on enjoying those tax-friendly laws.