Boston has all those championships (well, 30 miles away in Foxborough, at least). Green Bay has history wrapped up in that frozen tundra. Philadelphia has, let's say, passionate fans. Florida has great weather but three sub-.500 football teams.
There are a number of ways to judge what the best cities to live in for football fans are, from the number of consecutive sellouts to highest TV ratings. But at Apartment Guide, we crunched all the numbers and uncovered the definitive ranking of best football cities for renters.
To determine our top 10, we created a metric called the Football Livability Index based on a variety of data points from across the spectrum including city affordability, team success, stadium convenience to downtown and which teams have the best fans.
After applying different weights to the data points, many Midwestern pigskin hotbeds rose to the top of the list, as did three of four cities in the NFC South. Here are the best football cities for renters according to our Football Livability Index.
You might be surprised to find Tampa on this list. Years of pumpkin-colored pratfalls and paper bag-covered heads have given the Buccaneers fanbase a questionable reputation.
But the franchise that lost its first 26 games gave way long ago to the Jon Gruden-era Bucs that won three Division titles and Super Bowl XXXVII. Despite a few seasons in the second division and the worst lifetime winning percentage of any NFL team, affordable ticket prices and lower than average cost of living give fans something to cheer about.
While the franchise represents the entire Tampa Bay region, the team itself resides in the city of Tampa (as opposed to baseball's Tampa Bay Rays that play in St. Petersburg). Tampa is a city on the rise from the Bay's downtown Channel District for pre-game eats to the nightlife of Ybor City for post-game drinks, with a plethora of industries and proximity to gorgeous Gulf beaches.
The Tampa Riverwalk, a two-and-a-half-mile pedestrian walkway from the Channelside District to the Tampa Convention Center, offers views and access to the best of the city, passing by Curtis Hixon and MacDill Parks, Tampa Museum of Art, Glazer Children's Museum, Rivergate Tower and Florida Museum of Photographic Arts providing a right of entry to the revitalized downtown.
The Carolina Panthers entered the league in 1995 in the middle of the teal revolution, a time when the Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Jose Sharks, Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Vancouver Grizzlies were all birthed wearing teal.
Unlike the bumbling Buccaneers, it took only one season for the Panthers to capture their first Division title and first Conference Championship game appearance. And with a roster filled with players like Julius Peppers, Steve Smith, Jake Delhomme and Cam Newton, the Panthers have been a consistent playoff contender with six Division championships this century.
Like Tampa Bay's Bucs or New England's Patriots, the Panthers represent 15 million Carolinians both North and South, but the team's home turf is purely Charlotte. This choice for NFL expansion into a hotbed of motorsports and country music raised a few eyebrows in the mid-'90s. But the decision proved prescient, as the city grew from 26th largest in the U.S. at the turn of the millennium to number 16 today, one of the nation's fastest-growing metro areas.
More importantly, Charlotte is the number one city in the nation for millennial and recent-grad population growth, all good news for the Panthers fanbase with this influx of grads from football-crazy regional ACC and SEC schools.
Many are attracted to Charlotte's booming financial industry. With headquarters for companies like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, Charlotte is the second-largest banking center in the nation.
Bills fans would much rather you speak of its great individual players of the 1990s like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith than those legendary four consecutive Super Bowl losses.
And they would certainly sooner have you talk about the world-famous Buffalo wings than that former #32 named Orenthal James. But when you live in the fourth snowiest city in America and you still pack your outdoor stadium (often shirtless), you know you're a fervent football city.
Indeed, the Buffalo Bills, an original AFL inaugural team, are one of the NFL's great franchises in this sports-crazy town (although the 40-year-old New Era Field stadium sits 11 miles south of downtown in Orchard Park).
Even if you aren't up for braving the bitter temperatures, Buffalo is chock full of places to catch the Bills each Sunday with a bevy of blue-collar sports bars serving up Genesee Cream Ale and plates of famous wings, invented at downtown Buffalo's Anchor Bar.
While the city is a 14-time winner of the Golden Snowball, there's much to do in Buffalo during all seasons. The city offers more than 50 art galleries and nearly two dozen public parks.
The brand new Buffalo Harbor State Park, known locally as Outer Harbor, is Buffalo's foray into creating a thriving retail and entertainment waterfront. And, of course, if you wish to stay cold indoors, too, the NHL's Buffalo Sabres play their games right in downtown Buffalo.
Football and parties go hand-in-hand and what better place to throw both parties and TD passes in than New Orleans? A Saints game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome is a non-stop party filled with choruses of “When The Saints Go Marching In," daiquiris and hurricanes, po'boys and Tom Benson-style golden parasols.
One of the traits that make Saints fans great is the ability to celebrate regardless of the team's fortunes. Fans of the black-and-old-gold suffered through two decades of “Ain'ts" football, not finishing more than .500 for the first time until their 20th season.
In 2005, Saints fans — and all of New Orleans — faced their biggest challenge as Hurricane Katrina hit in the middle of the NFL preseason, forcing the closure of the Superdome and sending the team on the road for the remainder of the season.
But since then, they have been rewarded with almost annual playoff appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XLIV. (Many fans feel their chance for a second Super Bowl victory was ruined by "pass interference" this past season.)
Outside of the game, New Orleans is also known for its raucous French Quarter revelries, the world-famous cuisine, the quirky neighborhoods and that laissez les bon temps rouler attitude that remains higher than ever.
Some of the world's great eateries and their signature dishes line the streets of NOLA, including baked ham at Mother's Restaurant, fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House, gumbo z'herbes at Dooky Chase Restaurant, bananas foster at Brennan's, beignets and chicory at Café de Monde and muffuletta at Central Grocery.
And don't miss getting into the French Quarter spirit at drinkeries like Broussard's, Avenue Pub, Pat O'Brien's, Arnaud's French 75 Bar, Parleaux Beer Lab, Erin Rose and The Old Absinthe House, whether the Saints are on the TV or not.
Just like the Carolina Panthers, the Jacksonville Jaguars debuted in 1995, also clad in teal. And also like the Panthers, the Jags experienced quick success. Their first playoff appearance came in their second season, which was followed by three more consecutive post-season berths, culminating in a league-best 14-2 season in 1999 and a 62-7 Divisional playoff win over Miami in Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson's last NFL game.
The team would go on to appear in the playoffs three more times behind players like Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith and Byron Leftwich. But the franchise fandom's pinnacle came in the form of the Jags' biggest supporter, fictional Jaxon Jason Mendoza (played by Manny Jacinto) on NBC's “The Good Place," a superfan of the team and especially former quarterback Blake Bortles.
In a state with popular locales like Miami, Tampa, Daytona Beach, Orlando and the Florida Panhandle, Jacksonville — an oceanfront city with one foot in the Sunshine State and one in the Deep South — is often overlooked and underrated.
Jacksonville is the largest city in the United States. No, for real. At 750,000 square miles, Jacksonville is indeed the biggest city in the continental U.S. by area. But with just under 900,000 residents, there's a lot of room to be had.
Don't sleep on Jacksonville's amazing cuisine, equal parts soul food, Floribbean and seafood. But what will make any Jags game watch party a hit is a platter featuring a couple of local standout sandwiches.
The Lubi sandwich, originated at the namesake Lubi's Hot Subs but available under different names at nearly any J-ville sandwich joint, is a mess of ground sirloin, cheese and onions on a steamed bun. And the derogatorily-sounding camel rider sandwich features deli lunchmeat smothered in Italian dressing shoved into a pita with a side of tabbouleh and a cherry limeade.
And when it comes to music at your tailgate, look no further than native sons from Ray Charles to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Mase.
What if an NFL team played in a college town? Well, that's what going to a game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City is like. The atmosphere around a Chiefs game is one big red-and-gold tailgate, filled with facepaint, marching bands and parking lot parties steeped with the smell of burgers and barbecue starting in the wee hours.
It all makes sense, with most Chiefs fans spending Sundays watching their NFL franchise after a Saturday of split-allegiances among the three local college football powerhouses, the heated “Border War" rivals the University of Kansas, 45 minutes to the west, and the University of Missouri, two hours to the east, and a sprinkling of Kansas State fans and their campus, two hours west.
At the center of a growing metropolitan area with same-named cities on either side of State Line Road, Kansas City — the Missouri side — is known as the City of Fountains with more than 200 working fountains across the city including famous sprinklers at Union Station, the intersection of Main and J.C. Nichols Parkway and Hallmark Cards' Crown Center. K.C. is a UNESCO World “City of Music," the only city in the U.S. with that designation, solidifying the city's deep importance in the genres of jazz, blues and country.
And on the tourist side, both local and imported, Kansas City is home to the famous Country Club Plaza, an upscale outdoor retail and dining district considered by many to be the world's first modern shopping center, and the popular Crossroads, Westport and Power & Light arts, entertainment, nightlife and dining districts, all great places to celebrate a Chiefs win.
There's not much needed to expound on Pittsburgh's place as one of America's best football cities to live in. During the fall and winter, everything in The 'Burgh revolves around the Steelers (sorry, Penguins), regularly extending into February Super Bowl season.
While the Steelers made just one playoff appearance between their founding in 1933 and 1972 (scoring exactly zero points), their Super Bowl era resume is unequalled, with 23 Division titles, eight Super Bowl appearances and six rings.
The Steel City is a mix of East Coast and Midwest, busy coastal and slower Great Lakes, making football Sundays unique. Fan reverence for the Steel Curtain days and current successes carry equal par on game days, as if Bradshaw, Swann, Franco and Mean Joe were still on the field.
While the city of Pittsburgh has finally begun to shed its reputation as a smoggy steel town in favor of its gleaming new glass-and-tech image, residents are still industrial down-and-dirty hard hats at heart.
Across bridges and tunnels and among the hills and three rivers, black-and-gold clad Pittsburgh fans appreciate the hard-working attitude of some of the team's greatest over the years, from Jerome Bettis and Rod Woodson to Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward, as it reflects the blue-collar status of the city itself.
It's this steel town attitude that taught residents to appreciate a late-night Pitts-burger at Primanti's or walking taco at Sheetz, with a cold I.C. Light as much as (or more) than any fancy cuisine. That's not an insult, that's high praise as the city of kielbasa, pierogies, chipped ham and Klondike bars was named 2019 “Food City of the Year" by af&co.
On top of that, the city at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela has become one of America's “Most Livable Cities," ranked number one by publications like Places Rated Almanac, The Economist and Forbes.
If there's one thing this top 10 list proves is that struggling franchises in struggling industrial cities can overcome economic downturns, overmatched coaches, crumbling stadiums and franchise-changing injuries.
For years, Cincinnati's Bengals were sort-of affectionately known as “The Bungles," a series of missed opportunities, unfulfilled promise, cringe-worthy injuries to the likes of Tim Crumrie, Carson Palmer and Ki-Jana Carter and, of course, Montana-to-Taylor. But like many cities in the Midwest, both the Bengals and the Queen City itself have proven to be John Facenda-worthy comeback stories.
After heartbreaks in the 1980s and futility in the '90s, the Bengals racked up seven playoff appearances since 2005, mirroring the fortunes of the Cincinnati under revitalization. Plus, the lower than average cost of living, rent prices and ticket prices are sure to appeal to even the most casual of fans. So, if you're kinda tired of packing and unpacking, Cincy has much to offer.
Sure, Cincinnati's most famous exports may be “WKRP" and Skyline Chili 5-way. And like many Rust Belt cities, a revitalized downtown offers loft apartments, hopping nightlife and walkable retail.
And an expanded waterfront near the Bengals and Reds stadiums hosts trendy bars, brewpubs, cafes and diverse eateries. But what stands out surprisingly is the Paris of America's underrated art scene.
The Cincinnati Art Museum (with 88 galleries) is one of the oldest in America, the Taft Museum of Art features works from European masters, 19th century Americana and historic Chinese antiquities, and the Contemporary Arts Center was one of the first contemporary arts centers in the nation.
Beyond galleries and collections are important community art initiatives. Cincinnati ArtWorks assists kids in creating impactful community art, Art Beyond Boundaries showcases local artists with disabilities and ArtsWave is a partnership between America's largest community arts fund and the city's tourism commission to promote art tourism.
If football had a holy land, it would be Green Bay. By far the smallest city in America to possess a major pro sports team, Green Bay's residents share a special bond with their beloved Packers.
In fact, the Packers are actually owned by those residents themselves through 5 million shares of stock held by 360,000 fans. It's that close tie that connects the people of Green Bay with their team like no other town and keeps the franchise running in a city of just 105,000.
The NFL started in cities of similar size like Decatur, Akron and Muncie, but only Green Bay lasted. Community ownership played a large part of that but it may not have survived if the Packers weren't the successful, legendary franchise they have been for a century.
The mythology of the Packers sits on a foundation of four Super Bowl titles on top of 11 NFL Championships, fabled figures like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Brett Favre and Vince Lombardi and that renowned frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
But very few know about Green Bay, the city itself, outside of its football franchise. The port city (on the bay of Green Bay, of course) just two hours both north of Milwaukee and northeast of Madison is, as the Packers name suggests, an upper Midwest industrial town with continuing deep ties to the meatpacking and paper processing industries.
The Packers' name was taken directly from the Indian Packing Company where Curly Lambeau worked and helped fund the team at its inception. Today meatpackers JBS and American Foods still employ thousands of Green Bayers. And the city proudly wears the moniker of "Toilet Paper Capital of the World" from the number of T.P. manufacturers dotting its history.
Culture in Green Bay doesn't just revolve around cheddar. Downtown has a thriving art and historic community, including Art Garage and Automotive Gallery and the Hazelwood Historic House and Neville Public Museums.
Nearby is the CityDeck riverfront promenade, a terraced boardwalk lined with mixed-use buildings, apartments and condos, pop-up music spaces and spots to fish along the Fox River or gaze out at the Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge (proving you still can't go anywhere in Green Bay without some cheesehead pride).
It all started on March 29, 1984, as a parade of Mayflower moving trucks shipped the entire Colts football franchise down to the last notepad and kicking tee to Indianapolis before the Maryland General Assembly could pass legislation keeping them in Baltimore.
The early years in Indy were rough, until 1998 when the Colts drafted a young quarterback from Tennessee named Peyton Manning. Over the next 13 seasons, Manning, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Dwight Freeney would lead the team to 11 playoff appearances, two Conference championships and a Super Bowl XLI tile.
After Manning sat out the 2011 season then bolted to Denver, Colts fans wondered what was to become of their franchise. Turns out there was no reason to worry as the time of Manning led seamlessly to the Andrew Luck era, with four playoff years and four Pro Bowls in seven seasons.
Now, those fans must again experience uncertainty after Luck's sudden retirement before the 2019 season. As the quarterback situation is sorted out, Indianapolis residents can find solace in their top ranking as the best city in the U.S. to live in for football fans.
One of the reasons Indy is the best football city in which to live is the area of town where Lucas Oil Stadium sits (the below-average rent prices and cost of living also help). Just across South Street from the stadium is the heart of Indianapolis' downtown, known as Mile Square.
Not only is Mile Square the home of the Colts, but also the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the AAA Indianapolis Indians' Victory Field, as well as the Indiana Convention Center.
With The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Monument Circle and the Indiana State House at the center, the district also features several urban parks, a number of national restaurant chains and a bevy of hotels perfect for tailgating and staying among fans before and after game day Sundays.
Need even more football in your life than just all Colts? Just west of Mile Square is the NCAA's National Office and its Hall of Champions Museum in White River State Park, which also features the Indianapolis Zoo, an open-air amphitheater and an IMAX movie theater. And just six miles north, catch an actual live college football game at Butler University's Bud and Jackie Sellick Bowl stadium.
Below are the full Football Livability Index rankings for all 32 teams in 30 NFL cities. While affordable Middle America towns rank very high on the list, large coastal cities like Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York and the Bay Area, with expensive costs of living, inconvenience and split-allegiance fandoms, drop to the bottom.
|Rank||City||State||Team||Stadium Distance From Downtown (miles)||Average Ticket Price (2018)||Regular Season Wins (Since 2010)||Super Bowl Titles||Fandom Rank||Average 1-BR Rent||Cost of Living|
To determine the best football cities for renters, we looked at the 30 cities where NFL teams are located. Phoenix, Boston, Nashville, Charlotte and Minneapolis were used for the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings, respectively. New York was used for the Giants and Jets and Los Angeles was used for the Chargers and Rams.
We then looked at seven factors and gave them a score from 1 to 32. We weighted the scores as follows:
After weighing the ranks, we then added up the scores for each city. The city with the lowest overall score was determined to be the best football city for renters.
The city with the lowest average rent received a score of 1 and the city with the highest average rent received a score of 32.
The rent information included in this article is based on August 2019 multifamily rental property inventory on Apartment Guide and Rent.com and is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein does not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
The city with the lowest cost of living received a score of 1 and the city with the highest cost of living received a score of 32.
Cost of living score is based on Q1 2019 cost of living percentages compared to the national average from the Council for Community and Economic Research.
The city with the lowest average ticket prices received a score of 1 and the city with the highest average ticket prices received a score of 32.
Average ticket prices are based on 2018 ticket price averages per team as reported by Statista.
The city with the most regular victories since 2010 received a score of 1 and the city with the fewest victories received a score of 32.
The cities with the most Super Bowl victories received a score of 1 and the cities with the fewest victories received a score of 32.
The total number of Super Bowl victories through the end of the 2018 season is compiled by Statista.
Team fandom rank comes from the 2019 NFL Fandom Report by Emory University professor Mike Lewis, which measures data on attendance, revenues, social media following and road attendance to develop statistical models of fan interest.
The cities where stadiums were located closest to downtown received a score of 1 and the cities where stadiums were located farthest away received a score of 32.
The distance from downtown to the stadium was determined by the shortest route option in Google Maps. The downtown areas of Phoenix, Boston, Nashville, Charlotte and Minneapolis were used for the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings, respectively.
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