Why sport in Virginia is worth celebrating
Our fair state of Virginia is today recognized as the largest American state without a major sports team, with the lack of a major central city cited by many as a factor in this, while it’s also clear that being so close to teams in DC and North Carolina also has something to do with it.
But we should also consider our state’s reluctance to finance the construction of stadiums capable of hosting elite sporting teams and events. Most recently, there were plans to build a new arena at Virginia Beach, with a view to bringing NBA basketball to the state, but those plans fell by the wayside when public support was withdrawn in 2017.
This isn’t a state without any sport at all, however, and the AAA Minor League Baseball team, the Norfolk Tides, have enjoyed no shortage of success in recent years. The Tides have been Divisional champions three times since the turn of the century, most recent of all in 2015. They were also League champions five times between 1972 and 1983, and they won a Class title in 1983, so there’s plenty to be proud of.
The Tides are a farm team for the Baltimore Orioles, establishing the partnership in 2007 and prior to that they enjoyed a 38-year run alongside the New York Mets, so although there’s no Major League Baseball in Virginia, there’s a road leading right to the top of the sport. And though neither partner side has enjoyed World Series success in recent years, the Orioles were East Division winners in 2014.
Several of the biggest names in baseball have presences in Viriginia and in fact it is the range of smaller fields available that makes our state so attractive for the establishment of partner and farm clubs. The Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays all have presences in Virginia.
Norfolk is also home to the Admirals, who compete in Ice Hockey’s East Coast Hockey League. The current club was established in its current form in 2015 due to the previous team moving to San Diego as reported on nhl.com and have so far failed to qualify for the play-offs, although they have at least succeeded in hauling themselves out of bottom spot in each of the last two seasons, so there’s potential there.
In Richmond, you’ll find the Kickers, our state’s United Soccer League club. The Red Army, as they are known, were established in 1993 and were US Open Cup winners two years later as can be seen on thecup.us.
The introduction of Major League Soccer in 1996 offered possibilities for growth and helped create a new betting market for soccer fans internationally. Sites such as BetJaw.com have allowed fans from as far afield as India to find the best deals available to them when they are looking to bet on the league. However, the Kickers have since taken a different route and presently compete at level three of the league structure pyramid.
The club can lay claim to being one of the oldest continuously owned clubs in the sport and they are celebrated as one of the famous old names of the sport in America, despite not being among the highest-ranked team at present.
These are just some of the teams and clubs flying the flag for Virginia on a sporting level and, though a major franchise continues to elude our state, there’s certainly plenty for us to get behind.
Story by Filip Carter