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SBD/SBJ Countdown To Top Minor League Market: No. 1 Toledo
Published August 12, 2013
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HOLY TOLEDO! Overcoming obstacles, rebounding from difficult circumstances, responding to challenging times -- all of that is part of the pathway to No. 1. Such is the case, too, for Toledo, Ohio, which stands atop our 2013 ranking of the nation’s Top Minor League Markets. Despite the economic challenges of the market, total minor league sports attendance in Toledo has increased 35 percent over the past five years, and fans have filled a combined 79 percent of all available seats. Triple-A Int’l League Toledo Mud Hens President & GM Joe Napoli said the Mud Hens’ season-ticket base is around 3,000, or one-third of the seats at Fifth Third Field. ECHL Toledo Walleye season-ticket holders make up about one-quarter of the capacity of 8,000-seat Huntington Center. Adding to the strength of the marketplace is the fact that the teams’ operating group is a nonprofit entity, and the Board of Lucas County Commissioners is the beneficiary of 100 percent of the net proceeds of the clubs. The baseball history of Toledo dates to 1883. Although the Mud Hens are clearly the anchor of Toledo’s sports world, hockey has enjoyed a mostly successful history in the market. The Walleye debuted with the arena in 2009, and the team has averaged 223,172 in attendance over its first four seasons, a 25 percent increase over the market’s previous best hockey season, back in 1977-78. The Walleye also led the ECHL in merchandise sales in 2011-12, said Todd Merton, director of marketing and licensing for the league.