Folks, hear me out.
The state of West Virginia needs the XFL, and the XFL needs West Virginia.
In case you weren’t paying attention today, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon announced this afternoon that he will be relaunching the XFL in 2020. The goal, according to McMahon, is to “re-imagine” the sport of professional football, and bring it “back to the fans.”
While McMahon didn’t dive into the specifics of relaunching the previously failed football league, it was said that the season will kick off in January or February to exploit the period in which we are currently left without professional American football during the NFL off-season. He also noted that the rebirth of the XFL will begin with eight teams, playing a ten game regular season with two semi-final games and a championship game. When asked about how XFL franchise ownership would work in the relaunch, McMahon noted that every team will be owned by a single entity, as opposed to the NFL’s franchise model.
So, with that said...
Why does the West Virginia need the XFL?
This one is pretty simple. A major league sports team would bring a major impact to West Virginia’s economy along with it.
We can see that impact when we take a look at the effect a West Virginia Mountaineers home game has on the local economy, for example. A report released in 2012 claims that a single WVU home game during the 2011 football season brought an average of roughly $1.6 million, or $11.2 million for the seven-game home season, to the Monongalia County economy alone. That doesn’t include the impact on the surrounding counties - Marion and Harrison, for example - where many fans attending the games stay.
A five-day youth soccer tournament held at Cabell Midland High in 2016 brought a $16 million impact to the regional economy according to The Herald-Dispatch. The inaugural Greenbrier Classic brought more than $111 million to the state, over seven days. An XFL team based in West Virginia would give the local and state economy an immediate boost, and could potentially create a number of jobs.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice should already be on top of this and willing to move mountains, literally, to make this happen. Justice is quick to tout his friendship with President Donald Trump, who also happens to be a WWE Hall of Famer and friends with the McMahon family. It’s time to start working that connection for the good of the Mountain State.
But why does the XFL need West Virginia?
This is the multi-million dollar question. We know that nearly every major city, and plenty of minor ones, will put their hat in the ring to host one of the new XFL teams. It’s an easy way to bring money into your city. So, why in the world should McMahon choose to place one of them in a state with a total population of 1.8 million people instead of, let’s say, Nashville, Tennessee?
While it is true that Nashville holds nearly half of the population of the entire state of West Virginia, I would be willing to venture a guess and say that a team in WV would see better attendance numbers than a city that is already the home of an NFL team. To be blunt, there’s not a whole lot for West Virginians to do and the chance to cheer on our very own professional sports team would be huge.
The first incarnation of the XFL only averaged 23,000 fans per game, with the Chicago Enforcers only drawing in about 15,000 fans per home game. In comparison, the West Virginia Mountaineers averaged just under 56,000 during the 2017 football season, while the Marshall Thundering Herd averaged about 22,000 fans in what was considered their worst attended season in years.
You can’t tell me that a legitimate XFL team in West Virginia, with affordable ticket prices, would draw much less than the average attendance of the teams in the first go-around of the XFL.
If Vince McMahon wants this rebirth of the league to not be a complete failure, he’s going to need to find a way to get fans into the product. He’s going to have to find host cities/states that are starving for a professional sports product, with fans that will come to the games. Combine that with the approach he’s planning to use to address political and social issues in the XFL, and it seems like a no-brainer that West Virginia should be at the top of the list.
But where in the world do we put an XFL team?
This is a decision that would be way above my pay grade, and would probably be a deal breaker if the right accommodations couldn’t be made. Logically, I’d have to believe you’d want to place the team somewhere near the outer borders of the state, or in one of the major population centers (Charleston, Beckley, Clarksburg).
There isn’t exactly an overabundance of large stadiums in the state, so one would have to believe a heavy investment into infrastructure would have to be made in order to pull this off. If we’re going to have to build a completely new facility, it’d be wise to make it a multi-purpose venue to host more than just an XFL team.
Morgantown would be the most logical place, since there’s already a stadium that could hold the number of fans you’d ideally want in attendance. It’d also allow potential fans in Western Pennsylvania and Maryland easy access to catch a game. However, I’m not sure West Virginia University would be keen on sharing Milan Puskar Stadium and the facilities with an XFL team. While an XFL team would only host, maybe, five home games per season, it seems like it could become a logistical nightmare during the Spring. Dana Holgorsen has been asking for facilities upgrades. Maybe we can work that into part of the deal.
Again, if Vince McMahon wants his second attempt at an alternate professional football league to work out, he’s going to need to find an area with people starving for a professional sports team. And he shouldn’t look any further than West Virginia to find those people.