The solid answer is "someone will find a place."
However, if Ballpark Digest is to be believed, the PCL is trying to persuade the city of Boise to expand on their concept of a new downtown ballpark to accommodate them instead of upgrading the stadium situation for the Boise Hawks. Understand that donations and privately built facilities in Boise have been the norm. In other word, desperation...
Naturally, I found 27 markets out west where the PCL is not located, are "possible" for AAA ball, and are larger markets than Reno, the smallest market currently in the PCL. Most have a ballpark... most have a team in some league. Markets smaller than that really didn't impress me, even though Eugene had AAA for a handful of seasons.
6 are a special situation, but one Escondido nearly fulfilled.
Frisco. Sugar Land. Rancho Cucamonga. Scottsdale. St. Paul. Kansas City, KS.
Yes, all in MLB markets. The caveat is that the MLB owner in that market would likely have to buy the team. I think Cucamonga, St. Paul, and Kansas City would theoretically require stadium expansions... but I'm willing to bet that's something the PCL is about to overlook. Thing is, Frisco and St. Paul are probably non-starters. Since that's a different argument, leave that on the table for now.
Another non-starter on my list: Baton Rouge, not nearly the smallest remaining metropolis, but it's home to LSU. LSU draws very well for baseball. Smart money does not compete with that AD.
Folks, it's not going to happen within Portland's city limits. The consultants helping suburban Milwaukie have raised the possibility of their single A ballpark proposal being expandable for AAA. Problem is, they are going ridiculously slow with that process and don't have an owner in pocket to help. BTW, they're ridiculously slow... Boise is even slower.
San Antonio is the only other market over 1 million population. They happen to be over 2 million. They're probably passing up Sacramento as I write this and will catch up with Portland sometime this decade... which means they could easily start talking MLB soon. The history of western baseball reads "AAA attendance goes down in direct response to MLB to town talk going up.
Tacoma... 3,440K... 5,331 (record attendance)
Sacramento... 2,149K... 8,455
Las Vegas... 1,951K... 4,486
Round Rock... 1,716K... 8,587
Nashville... 1,590K... 4,857
Memphis... 1,316K... 7,050
Oklahoma... 1,253K... 5,262
New Orleans... 1,168K... 5,314
Salt Lake... 1,124K... 6,437
Tucson... 980K... 3,410
Fresno... 930K... 6,958
Albuquerque... 908K... 8,145
Omaha... 865K... 5,946
Colorado Springs. 646K... 4,842
Iowa... 570K... 7,256
Reno... 425K... 6,088
1- Tacoma resides in the model I discussed earlier, so the Seattle population matters. There's certainly plenty of enthusiasm when Mariners' scores are announced in Cheney Stadium.
2- I'd have added Ogden and Orem populations to Salt Lake if I had thought about it... except both "markets" have Pioneer League teams. Still, it's probably selling SL a bit short.
While the top 2 PCL draws are among the 4 largest markets, 5 of the next 6 are in the smaller half. Of the rest of the larger markets, only Vegas doesn't have major league sports competition in town (Vegas just has competition from everyone else).
So if you ask why I wouldn't advocate Portland and San Antonio, I think this data tells a story. It costs too much to market the team in larger markets unless your parent club has a stake in your success. There's probably a cost advantage in air travel (the stated reason why the owner in Boise wants no part of PCL), but if your revenue potential is limited, is the slightly cheaper cost of travel really worth it?
That somehow leads me to the largest market I haven't mentioned yet: Honolulu. Yes, that's where travel really could be a problem, although there are real deals to there right now. Meanwhile, Aloha Stadium is too big and rickety; Honolulu would need a new ballpark, and the money is just not there.
You notice I've already mentioned Frisco and San Antonio; 7 of the 8 Texas League franchises are on my list. Round Rock's attendance has actually slipped a little since they moved to the PCL. Does that mean Tulsa would drop if PCL replaced TL there? I'm not sure... if you put the factors together (right-sized population, only WNBA competition, a market far enough from Oklahoma City to stand alone, but close enough to be the rival to energize that market), I really like that idea. Little Rock could be an interesting choice. I'm not sure I'd want to mess with NW Arkansas (U of A). Springfield and Corpus Christi are intriguing. Still, I'd seriously try to pull strings for Tulsa.
Besides the Portland area and Honolulu, I have Oxnard, McAllen, and Santa Rosa on this list. I suspect none have the proper ballpark. Furthermore, the California markets are probably close enough to Dodgers and Giants to warrant MLB ownership. McAllen definitely gets my attention, but I'm not sure I get the warmest fuzzy about the place. Transportation would be a bit of an issue. It should be considered, but it's not Tulsa.
Bakersfield is far enough from Los Angeles to be considered its own market, large enough to be viable... and stingy enough that the owner of the Blaze is said to be preparing a private funding package to replace Sam Lynn. Fresno could use some help, but Bako is a gamble.
We've touched on El Paso. The question of their past failure is noted. I could argue a new park closer to downtown would help. What are the chances of that?
Stockton? Really not. They're in Sacramento's TV market.
Wichita? I think I could make that argument, though I wonder if Wichita State is too big a deal? Don't know for sure.
Jackson, Mississippi? They might be in the footprint (close to New Orleans), but I have my doubts.
Modesto, California? Also in Sacramento's TV market, and they'd need a whole new ballpark they're not going to get.
Visalia, California, is shockingly on this list. I have a theory that Fresno would go Cal League if Visalia pulled off AAA. Too close to Fresno.
Actually between Modesto and Visalia in market size, but is notable enough to close this discussion: Spokane. They may have a big college basketball presence, but they turn out for other stuff. Indians ownership IS interested in PCL. While Avista could use a few improvements, it's hosted PCL before. Southwest does fly there. I think all that puts Spokane in a better position than Boise, frankly.
So... Tulsa, El Paso, McAllen, Boise, Spokane. What do you think?