Play Ball: Boston Named Best Large Sports City in New Study

By Seth Daniel

As the New England Patriots get ready to host their first playoff game in Foxboro, one might think it’s the success of the city’s football team that makes Boston the best sports city in America.

But according to a recent study done by WalletHub, Boston if the #1 large sports city in America not only because of the prolific Patriots and historic Red Sox, but also due to the rabid fan bases for the Bruins, the college hockey teams and the Celtics.

And in a bit of a surprise, pro soccer for men and women scored rather highly as well.

In the highly mathematical study, WalletHub used more than 50 metrics to weight each large city – giving more weight to pro teams over college teams. For example, a good NFL score could get as high as 70 points, while a good college football score could only go as high as 30 points. The study looked at pro and college programs for football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer.

In the study, Boston beat the #2 contender, New York City, and the #3 contender, Los Angeles. The top five were rounded out with Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Boston edged out New York with a total study score of 47.22 to 45.25. However, it was the Patriots or the Red Sox that pumped up the scoring, but rather strong returns for the Celtics and Bruins. It was also noteworthy because, aside from hockey, Boston doesn’t have a lot of interest in college athletics.

“Sports are rarely objective, but that’s what we went for here,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. “The methodologies of our reports are created in conjunction with academic experts, using data collected from official sources. It’s hard to argue with numbers, whether they’re performance-based or on fans filling seat.”

One of the key metrics in the study was how many championships, division championships or conference championships any pro or college team has won, and with ‘Title Town’ in full effect, Boston scored well.

“It’s pretty unique that Boston’s sports franchises have claimed at least one championship in almost every major sport within the past decade – namely, hockey, basketball, baseball and football,” Gonzalez said. “This definitely affected the city’s rankings in a positive way. Boston’s 2nd place among the best hockey cities, for example, is due to the outcomes in metrics such as Number of Stanley Cup Wins (ranking 3rd at six won), Number of NHL Division Championship Wins (1st at 25) for NHL, and Number of NCAA (Division 1) Championship Wins (1st at 10) and Number of NCAA (Division 1) Regular Season Championship Wins (1st at 34) for NCAA Division 1, Men’s.”

Another very strong show for Boston sports was in the overall rankings, where the basketball and hockey rankings were both #2 out of all the cities studied. Comparatively, football was at #5, baseball at #6 and soccer at #8.

New York, as a bit of a punch in the gut for any Red Sox fan, scored as the #1 baseball city in the study.

Yet another interesting aspect in the measurements was the engagement of the fans, and after the study, Boston can truly say it has some of the most invested fans in pro sports and college hockey.

For fan engagements, Boston was #3 for pro football, #1 for pro basketball, #2 for pro baseball, #3 for pro hockey, #10 for men’s pro soccer and #8 for women’s pro soccer.

That factored into attendance as well, where Boston was in the top 10 in most categories.

“Boston certainly is remarkable when it comes to fan attendance,” concluded Gonzalez. “However, even with an NBA Attendance of a whopping 99.6%, the city still ranked only 9th. Chicago, for instance, had a Average Home-Fan Attendance/Arena Capacity ratio of little over 103%. And even with an NHL Attendance of 100% in Boston, it still managed to come in 8th. Chicago had an attendance of 110%.”

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