What is the Best Sports City in America?

18 December 2013 by



Ever since the Romans began their chariot races and gladiator combat, a fierce debate has raged on. It’s a centuries old dispute really…..which is the Best Sports Cities in America? Now, yes, this list is about sports fans but it is not about which fans are the most insane for their teams. It is more about which city is the best for sports overall. Confused by what we mean? Let’s try to clarify. We wanted to give a good description of the Best Sports Cities in America by including other non-traditional categories for people who also like to stay fit while still enjoying their hometown sports. To accomplish this, we added categories like Fittest Cities, Most Gyms, Vitamin Stores and Park Rankings. This list is more than which city has the most crazy sports fans as it also factors in ways to stay active and enjoy the outdoors.

Coming up with facts and figures to determine how passionate a city is about all things sports was no easy task. I mean, can you really measure passion? Well, we tried and we think we’ve come up with a pretty good list. We analyzed every city in the United States which had at least 1 team in one of the 4 major sports. This was our first criteria because, let’s face it, if the city you reside in does not have a major sports team, the city is not large or significant enough to be included.

In addition, we analyzed 15 more categories in order to get the most statistical representation of what represents a great sports city. We researched and analyzed each category in each of the cities and came up with a qualified list. From there, we ranked each city for prevalence of each factor in relation to the overall population of the city, identical to what we did with our Best Hipster Cities blog. For example, Chicago is going to have hundreds more sports bars compared to Memphis simply because Chicago is a much larger city population wise. Because of this, we broke down each number and based it on the number of factors per person. Unless otherwise noted, each category is broken down per capita and retrieved the numbers in each city from the authority on all things local, Yelp. Each category is detailed and discussed below. Everyone got their peanuts, cracker jacks, foam fingers (not you Miley Cyrus) and beers? Great! Let’s get to it.

The Categories

Toronto Maple Leafs fans wear paper bags over their heads as they watch Maple Leafs lose to Philadelphia Flyers during their NHL game in Toronto

We spent a large amount of time doing research and taking feedback in order to create a list of categories worthy enough to make an analysis on the Best Sports Cities.

We ranked each city with at least one major sport based on the frequency of the following factors:

  • Total Major Sports
  • Total Major Championships
  • NFL Attendance
  • NHL Attendance
  • MLB Attendance
  • NBA Attendance
  • Fittest Cities
  • CDC Obesity Rates
  • Total Gyms
  • ParkScore Rankings
  • Health Food Grocery Stores
  • Vitamin Stores
  • Bars
  • Sports Stores
  • Sports Restaurants

Continue reading to see the analysis for each category and see which city is the Best Sports City in America. The rankings for each city were tallied and the results are displayed at the end if you do not wish to read the results for each category.

Total Major Sports


We dug a bit deeper on this category. Instead of only using the 4 major U.S. sports we included major college football and basketball teams, NASCAR Race Tracks, the MLS and any major marathons each city has. This category is obviously not based per capita and was dominated by large cities. The leader in this category was New York with 12 major sports teams and marathons followed by Chicago with 11, Los Angeles and Boston with 10 each and Washington DC with 9.

Total Major Championships


The easiest way to judge how good a team is performing is to count the number of championships they have. On-field success leads to off-field success for the team as well with more merchandise sales, popularity, TV time and fame to name a few things. It’s easier for fans to like a team that is winning, though one could argue the fans who have seen their teams win minimal or zero championships may be more passionate and diehard as they’ve stuck by their teams through the worst.

This list counts championships from the four major sports along with the MLS and major college teams in the city. There was a tie at the top with New York and Los Angeles both having 52 championships! Boston was third with only 34, Chicago fourth with 31 and Pittsburgh rounding out the top 5 with 25. The most deprived fans are located in Orlando, Oklahoma City, Nashville and Memphis which all have zero championships.


Overall Attendance


We broke down the attendance by each sport because it was easier for us to extrapolate the data that way. It also gave us a good idea of which teams and sports were being well attended and which the fans didn’t much care for. The data represents which teams fill their stadiums the most and the most consistently for the past 7 years. Each stadium attendance was analyzed on how full the stadium was based on its capacity. For cities with more than 1 sports team, Boston came out on top with the most fans attending games in the past 7 years and Chicago was a fraction behind. Philly came in third, San Francisco and Anaheim rounded out the top 5. The bottom 5 markets with more than 1 sports team were Kansas City, New Jersey, Tampa, Oakland and San Diego.

NFL Attendance


The teams which have sold out the most games in the past seven years surprised us. Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Seattle, Tennessee, Houston and New England were the top 7 teams. Dallas, Chicago and Denver rounded out the top 10. Moving to the bottom of the list San Diego, St. Louis, Detroit, Buffalo and Kansas City have the most trouble keeping their stadiums filled to capacity. This list was a bit misleading though as the top 13 teams or so all averaged at least 100% capacity for the past seven years while the bottom was around 80%. Even 80% capacity seems solid over nearly a decade of stats.

MLB Attendance


The order of this list didn’t surprise with Boston, Philly, San Francisco, the Cubs and St. Louis drawing the most consistent crowds over the past 7 years. Toronto, Oakland, Baltimore, Tampa and Miami have the most trouble filling their seats. It is much more difficult to meet capacity at baseball stadiums than football stadiums. For one, there are 81 home games in baseball and most of the games are played during the week and during the day. Impressively, the top teams continuously put butts in the seats while the bottom teams hovered around 65-70% capacity over the 7 year span we analyzed.

NBA Attendance


The NBA attendance was more reflective of NFL attendance in that the top 10 teams or so had capacity over 100% and the bottom few had roughly 80%. Chicago, Orlando, Boston, the Lakers and Portland led the way. Washington, Philadelphia, Indiana, Charlotte and Memphis were at the bottom of the list.

NHL Attendance


NHL attendance over nearly a decade was dominated by Canadian teams, not surprisingly. We didn’t count those in our stats because this list is about ‘Merica! Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Chicago and San Jose were the top 5 U.S. markets over that time and if we had counted the Canadian markets, these 5 U.S. teams would all still be within the top 10 Overall. Pittsburgh came in third and Philly fourth overall actually. The bottom feeders were Phoenix, the Islanders (NY), Columbus, Florida and Colorado (Denver).

Fittest Cities


When you think of crazed sports fans, what do you think of? Does your mind immediately go to a bunch of overweight men sitting on their couches watching football, drinking beer, eating Doritos and checking their fantasy stats? As we said, this list isn’t just about crazy sports fans, it is about staying fit and keeping your body healthy. This is the list Mens Health came out with this year. We used their numbers and rankings for this category.

The fittest cities according to Mens Health were Portland, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Oakland, Boston, Seattle and Denver. No real surprise here as these are all cities with good weather, plenty to do outside and great food.

CDC Obesity Rates


This data is a bit aged (2010 figures) but it’s the only data we could find from the Governments website. The CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System measures obesity and other health factors in U.S. cities. We analyzed the numbers and found the cities with the most active people. According to the CDC, Sacramento, Portland, Denver, Seattle, San Jose, Minneapolis and Frisco are the cities whose people are the most physically active. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fresno, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, El Paso and Detroit are the least physically active cities.

Number of Gyms

John Parra

Sticking with the healthy portion of our list, we analyzed the cities with the most number of gyms per capita. Eating right, working out and taking care of your body is essential to healthy living. The cities with the most gyms per capita were Nashville, Anaheim, San Antonio, Orlando, Miami and Atlanta. The top of this list was a bit surprising to us as we didn’t expect the top three to turn out the way it did. We expected to see larger cities such as New York, Chicago and San Diego at the top.

ParkScore Rank


ParkScore is a website which identifies and ranks the best cities with parks in the United States. They do so by advanced mapping technology and determine which neighborhoods are under served by parks. Parks are important aspects of cities and ParkScore is trying to determine how well each city is meeting the needs for parks. We took the rankings straight from their website and Minneapolis came in at the top. New York, Sacramento, Frisco, Boston, DC and Portland round out the top 7 cities for parks. St. Louis, Anaheim, Tampa, Pittsburgh and Orlando were some notable cities left off the list.

Health Food Stores


Another category for those interested in more than just the crazy sports fans. What better way to stay fit and healthy than shopping at health food stores? Where do you think the most likely places to find health food stores per capita are? We assume you looked to the West and guessed correctly. Anaheim, Frisco, Nashville, Oakland, Seattle and San Jose top the list. The bottom of our list featured El Paso, Baltimore, Jacksonville and San Antonio.

Vitamin Stores


You eat right and work out daily. What better way to top it off and make sure you’re getting all the right nutrients and supplements your body needs than going to a vitamin store. Keep the protein and V8 flowing and you’ll have the energy to power through the days. Anaheim leads the list again with Seattle, Nashville, Frisco and Orlando coming up behind. If you really want some vitamins or supplements, stay out of Memphis, El Paso, San Antonio and Louisville as they are the cities with the least amount of stores per capita.



When the big game comes on, where do you go? Sipping ice cold beers while chowing a burger and watching the game all makes sense to us. Dive bars, townie bars and restaurants all have multiple TVs nowadays. Mesa, Nashville, Anaheim, Cincy and Orlando are your top 5 cities for bars per capita. On the other hand, El Paso, Memphis, Fresno and Jacksonville make it difficult to watch a game and drink a beer outside of your home as they all ranked at the bottom of our list.

Sports Stores


The internet has taken over the World and we’re all gonna die because of it! We know this…heck our business is based off people using and purchasing products on the internet. We also know many people continue to do their shopping at retail shops. Remember those? Brick and mortar stores? We can’t seriously be dating ourselves by saying this can we? This category is based on the number of sports stores in each city. In the (odd) case fans want to purchase products from somewhere other than Amazon or EBay, they need a place to do so. Hooray for retail sports stores! Strangely, Las Vegas leads the list here followed by Oakland, San Jose, Long Beach, Salt Lake and San Diego. Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Boston round out the top 10 cities where you are most likely to find a retail sport store per capita.

Sports Restaurants


We wanted to get a better grasp on which cities not only has the most bars for people to sit and watch a game, but which cities have the most sports themed restaurants. Anaheim, Nashville, Frisco, Cincinnati, Orlando, Las Vegas and Atlanta were the top 7 cities on the list. Atlanta, Seattle and Boston rounded out the top 10 while the cities with the least amount of sports themed restaurants were El Paso, Tulsa, Jacksonville, Memphis and Fresno.

Sportiest Cities in America

After all of our analysis, we found the sportiest cities in the U.S. to be:

1.  Boston

2.  San Francisco

3.  Washington DC

4.  Minneapolis

5.  Seattle

6.  Denver

7.  Oakland

8.  Chicago

9.  San Jose

10.  Portland

11.  Phoenix

12.  Los Angeles

13.  Anaheim

14.  San Diego

15.  Sacramento

16.  Miami

17.  Atlanta

18.  New York

19.  Pittsburgh

20.  Nashville

Take Away


As all of our analysis shows, this is the most scientific study ever done on the sportiest cities in America, obviously. We didn’t know how this list would turn out prior to all of the analysis but man, Boston number one again?! People are getting really sick of Boston coming up on top. Seems like all we hear about is Red Sox Nation, the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics. We were a bit surprised by the top 5 also having Seattle and DC. Does the order of the list shock you? Are there cities you thought would be higher or lower on the list? Cities you think should be on the list but aren’t?

Remember, the list isn’t simply about who the biggest sports fans are, it is also about where you can live and still have a healthy, sporty lifestyle. Now, the impact of sports fans on the self storage industry is likely larger than you think. Many fans tailgate at storage facilities before heading into games. People store their favorite possessions in storage units. Kobe recently had a dispute with his mother over memorabilia and all of his stuff was in a storage unit. There was also a storage unit won at auction which had a ton of Dikembe Mutumbo gear in it.


We’d love to hear your input on our “highly scientific” list or even stories of you tailgating at a self storage facility. Maybe you found some sweet gear in a storage auction you won. Sound off in the comments and let us know!

SSF Team

SSF Team

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SSF Team

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