SBJ/Sept. 18-24, 2017/Research and Ratings

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  • Iowa crashes No. 1

    “Google Des Moines.”

    It wasn’t a request, but a challenge, by Todd Frederickson. The 38-year-old had just been hired to assemble a front-office staff for a hockey team that would begin play in five months in a market that had lost a team four years earlier, in 2009.

    His challenge was issued to the 25 staffers in the office of the AHL Houston Aeros, the franchise that the Minnesota Wild owned and was relocating to Iowa’s capital.

    Frederickson wanted to entice the staff to join him in Des Moines. He had done the same search a few weeks earlier when the Wild lured him away from the league’s headquarters in Springfield, Mass. What he found surprised him: a thriving economy, a young population, low crime and lots of hip restaurants and entertainment options.

    Those Google searches now will turn up something even more surprising: Des Moines is No. 1 in our 2017 ranking of the nation’s minor league markets.

    First Look podcast, with Minor League Markets discussion at the 17:15 mark:


    Teaming up: Iowa Wild mascot Crash throws out the ceremonial first pitch at an Iowa Cubs game.
    Photo by: IOWA CUBS


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    Frederickson was named president of the Iowa Wild on April 24, 2013, began work on May 9 and five months later saw the puck drop for his first game.

    The Des Moines appeal worked enough to entice six Aeros employees to take the Midwest plunge, although Frederickson had to wait a few more precious weeks for the playoffs to end.

    “It’s hard to get Texans to leave Texas,” the Michigan native said. “But people see how cool it is here, and Des Moines itself has actually become a recruiting tool for me.”

    As the team heads into its fifth season, the market appears to be catching on.

    The team has sold more than 2,500 full-season tickets, its most ever, while group sales are on record pace, sponsor revenue is already up 25 percent over last year’s record high and last year’s average attendance of 6,019 was the club’s best yet.

    In 2016, the Wild was honored as the American Hockey League’s corporate sales team of the year with more than 100 percent growth, backed by new and creative sponsorships. Along those lines, Frederickson expects the team’s corporate partners — and Des Moines in general — to gain national exposure in January at the Wild’s first Hockey Days in Iowa sponsored by Iowa Corn, a 3-on-3 tournament played on four rinks that the club will build in a farmer’s field.

    The installation of rinks is part of the edict from the parent club, which is an easy 3 1/2-hour drive away, to grow the game of hockey in Iowa. As a result, the teams have spent four years donating rinks and equipment as well as staffing physical education classes with players and coaches to teach kids how to play.

    Not everyone who comes to Iowa for hockey stays, however. Thirty-two Iowa players have been promoted to the parent NHL club, which Frederickson thinks is a great selling tool.

    “We might not have a major league team,” he said, “but we want our fans to have the pride in being a fan of a minor league team.”

    Plus, when a fan favorite goes to the NHL, or when an NHL player does a stint in Des Moines, the two teams can share information, such as ZIP codes of fans who appear to be willing to make the drive across state lines.

    Additionally, all Iowa Wild season-ticket holders receive a ticket to a Minnesota Wild home game. That cross-promotion strategy also works within the city: All Iowa Cubs season-ticket holders receive a ticket to a Wild game, and vice versa.

    “The Cubs are great partners,” Frederickson said. “They’re a big reason why this city is so great.”

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    Sam Bernabe, Cubs president and general manager, grew up in West Des Moines, earned a degree in education two hours away at the University of Iowa and returned to his hometown to become a Cubs intern in 1983. After 34 full seasons, no one has had a better view of Des Moines’ minor league sports evolution than Bernabe.

    As an intern, he was one of five employees — “and no GM” — whose job was to run a Class AAA franchise.

    “It was a dumpy, old ballpark,” he said of since-demolished Sec Taylor Stadium. “It was a battle to open the doors every day and a bigger battle to get people to actually come to the ballpark.”

    Bernabe helped orchestrate the construction of a new ballpark on the same site in 1992, only to see it flooded a year later by one of the worst floods Des Moines had suffered in decades, and then again in 2008. “Things are tough when you have a 500-year flood every 10 years,” Bernabe said.

    Mary Mycka, executive director at the Stadium Managers Association and a lifelong Des Moines resident, empathized.

    “Our office used to be across the parking lot from the ballpark, and we moved after the area got flooded so many times,” she said. “Poor Sam and his crew have had a lake for a ballpark too many times.”

    Water aside, times have never been better for the Cubs.

    The team’s owner, Des Moines-based Raccoon Baseball, now boasts two businesses to complement the 27-employee team. Iowa Cubs Sports Turf started building pitching mounds and home-plate areas for $500 in 2005. It now has 17 full-time groundskeepers who count the Cubs, the Class AAA Omaha (Neb.) Storm Chasers, the Class A Burlington (Iowa) Bees and dozens of colleges and community athletic complexes as clients.

    The ownership’s other business is the Cub Club Restaurant, Principal Park’s left-field premium area that is open year-round and has become a popular destination for special events. Bernabe said the team brought its catering operation in-house in 2014 and has seen the number of Cub Club events increase from 86 to more than 200.

    “We will do over 210 events there for the second straight year this year, with proceeds growing at a similar rate,” Bernabe said.

    When parent club Chicago won the World Series last season, Iowa Cubs merchandise sales jumped and are on pace for another increase.
    Photo by: IOWA CUBS


    Another catalyst for the team’s revenue growth came with the 2014 conversion of an underutilized picnic area into the Bud Club, an all-you-can-eat premium area where fans can reserve patio tables. The tables cost $200 to $240 each, depending on the game. The Cubs sold about 300 tables the first year, then added a second row after the season, and this summer more than 600 tables were booked.

    By design, 25 of the ballpark’s 45 suites are on a full-season lease and 20 are available for nightly rental. Revenue from those individual game-day rentals is up about 30 percent since 2014. Overall, the Cubs averaged 7,763 fans per game this season, up 5 percent from 2016 and their best figure since 2009. Their season-ticket base held steady at 2,500.

    Putting more fans in the seats, though, was just part of the club’s recent run of success, Bernabe said.

    Piggybacking off the parent club’s historic World Series title, merchandise sales in 2016 were 25 percent higher than what they had generated during a record 2015, and are pacing 18 percent ahead of where they were at this time a year ago.

    Stadium upgrades during the past three years have led to a better fan, and player, experience, too.

    Prior to the 2015 season, a 62-foot-wide, 24-foot-tall HD video board was installed in right-center field. This year, the team spent $900,000 for a left field video board and to convert the stadium’s lighting to LED. Player areas also have been upgraded and a $450,000 batting tunnel will be built this winter.

    As a result, the team saw a 25 percent increase in revenue from non-game-day full-stadium rentals from 2014 to 2016.

    Also this summer, Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group, a global financial investment firm, extended its naming-rights deal through 2027. The Cubs also extended their lease with the city through 2037 and their MLB affiliate agreement through at least 2020.

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    Des Moines is the first No. 1 market in our study to boast a team in four sports. That, of course, can strain ticketing and marketing staffs, not to mention fans’ wallets. But anyone who questions the city’s ability to support four franchises can gain a little comfort from Bernabe’s background.

    “The first baseball game I saw was when my grandpa took me to Sportsman’s Park, right before they tore it down,” he says. “So I grew up a Cardinals fan.”

    If a Cardinals fan can run a team called the Cubs for 34 years, anything is possible in Des Moines.

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  • Minor League Markets — 2017 rankings

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  • Top 10: How did they shake out?

    2. Quad Cities (Moline-Rock Island, Ill./Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa)

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): Midwest League Clinton LumberKings (1954), Midwest League Quad City River Bandits (1960), ECHL Quad City Mallards (1995)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): Modern Woodmen Park (1931), Ashford University Field (1937), iWireless Center (1993)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: The Quad Cities, a region in southeast Iowa and northwest Illinois along the Mississippi River, saw almost no change in its population (383,000) over the past five years, and the market’s income growth of 6 percent during that span lagged well behind our other top-10 markets, and the rest of the country.

    Yet in the face of the adverse market conditions, fans kept coming. In each of the past three years, the area’s clubs combined to draw more than half a million fans, and overall attendance this past season grew 9 percent compared to five years ago. Additionally, a combined total of more than $10 million was spent to upgrade the two stadiums that were built in the 1930s and the arena that will celebrate its 25th birthday next year.

    Overall, the three clubs’ cumulative tenure in the region is 162 years, trailing only Rochester, N.Y., as the market that has hosted more seasons of minor league sports. But the appetite for sports will be tested even further in 2018, as the Quad City Steamwheelers of the Champions Indoor Football league begin play in March.

    3. Fort Wayne, Ind.

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): ECHL Fort Wayne Komets (1952), Midwest League Fort Wayne TinCaps (1993), NBA G League Fort Wayne Mad Ants (2007)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): Allen County War Memorial Coliseum (1952), Parkview Field (2009)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: Fort Wayne has now finished in the top 10 in six of the seven editions of our study, including being No. 1 in 2007. Attendance continues to thrive as Fort Wayne’s attendance-to-population ratio of 1.8-to-1 is the highest of any multiple-team market. The Komets averaged 7,568 fans in 2016-17, their third consecutive season of growth. The TinCaps finished 2017, the franchise’s silver-anniversary season, with their second-highest total ever with 413,374 fans packing Parkview Field. The Mad Ants recorded the team’s highest average (3,098) since the 2008-09 season.

    Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, home of the Komets since the team was born in 1952, completed a $16 million addition in late 2015, and earlier this year county commissioners approved $1.4 million for additional renovations at the venue.

    The TinCaps have advanced to the Midwest League Playoffs eight times in the last nine years. The team did, however, drop out of the top 25 in merchandise sales for the first time since rebranding from the Wizards in 2009. The 400 Club, a privately funded $800,000 luxury suite that opened in Parkview Field in 2013, is the only spot in minor league sports where fans can sit inside a stadium’s “batter’s eye.”

    4. Charleston, S.C.

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): South Atlantic League Charleston RiverDogs (1980), ECHL South Carolina Stingrays (1993), USL Charleston Battery (1993)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): North Charleston Coliseum (1993), Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park (1997), MUSC Health Stadium (1999)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: The RiverDogs set their single-season attendance record this season (308,069), topping their then-record 2016 by 6 percent. The team’s bottom line was bolstered by the creation of the 6,000-square-foot Riley Park Club, a $3.1 million club level that overlooks the playing field as well as the Ashley River wetlands.
    The Stingrays are the oldest continuously operational ECHL franchise to remain in its founding city, and have made the playoffs in all but one of their 24 seasons, including the conference finals two of the past three years. They drew 175,702 last season, a 41 percent jump from 2011-12, the year before the city completed a $22 million renovation of the arena.

    On the soccer side, B Sports Entertainment, the Battery’s ownership group, purchased eight high-definition cameras and a production suite last winter, and brokered a deal with the city’s ABC affiliate to show all of the club’s matches live on local TV for the first time in its 25-year history.

    Declining soccer attendance was the only factor that negatively affected the market’s ranking. With three home dates left this season, the team’s average attendance was 3,250 — on pace to be its lowest since 2001.

    5. Toledo, Ohio

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): International League Toledo Mud Hens (1965), ECHL Toledo Walleye (2009)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): Fifth Third Field (2002), Huntington Center (2009)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: Toledo’s economy continues to struggle: It experienced an 18 percent increase in total personal income during the five years covered in our study, yet saw a nearly 1 percent drop in population, and its 6.2 percent unemployment rate is the highest since January 2015. However, the two minor league teams in Toledo, ranked No. 1 in our 2013 study, combined for an all-time attendance high of 833,000 fans in the past year.

    The Mud Hens filled more than 86 percent of the seats at Fifth Third Field over the past five seasons. Additionally, for the 22nd time since 1993, when MiLB began tracking team-level merchandise sales, the club in 2016 was one of the organization’s top sellers. Such achievements helped the Mud Hens pay off the debt on Fifth Third Field last year five years earlier than scheduled. Ohio-based Fifth Third Bank renewed its naming-rights deal through 2028.

    The Walleye set team full-season attendance records in each of the last three seasons, drawing an additional 152,000 fans during its three straight playoff appearances.

    6. Grand Rapids-Comstock, Mich.

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): Midwest League West Michigan Whitecaps (1994), AHL Grand Rapids Griffins (1996), NBA G League Grand Rapids Drive (2014)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): DeltaPlex Arena & Conference Center (1952), Fifth Third Ballpark (1994), Van Andel Arena (1996)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: The Grand Rapids-Comstock market continues to be a climber, moving up four spots from our 2013 study. The connection between the area and Detroit is strong, as all three minor league teams are tied to parent clubs in the Motor City, just two hours away. Since coming to Grand Rapids from Springfield, Mass., three seasons ago, the NBA G League Drive has drawn 212,731 fans to an arena that had lacked an anchor tenant since 2010. The Drive also remains one of the few G League teams with local ownership, maintaining a hybrid affiliation with the Pistons. The club’s attendance last season was up 33 percent compared to its inaugural season in the city.

    Meanwhile, the Griffins won two AHL titles over the last five seasons and the club remained steady as a top-five draw among all AHL clubs. Similarly, the Whitecaps were a top-five attendance draw in the Class A Midwest League during all five years of our study, and significantly upgraded their ballpark during the past two offseasons.

    The Bears helped Hershey-Harrisburg rank seventh after delivering knockout blows in 2009
    and 2011.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


    7. Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa.

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): AHL Hershey Bears (1932), Eastern League Harrisburg Senators (1987), USL Harrisburg City Islanders (2004), MASL Harrisburg Heat (2012)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center (1966), Metro Bank Park (1987), Skyline Sports Complex (1987), Giant Center (2002)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: These two towns in Western Pennsylvania, separated by only 14 miles, have long maintained a strong presence as a top minor league market, taking home the top spot in 2009 and 2011. After slipping to ninth two years ago, the market has climbed back to No. 7 this year. Hockey attendance in Chocolatetown, USA, continues to dominate its peers. The Hershey Bears have led all AHL teams at the gate for 11 straight seasons, even with a 7 percent drop during the past five years.

    Meanwhile, down the road, the Senators suffered an 18 percent drop in attendance last season compared to their record set in 2015.

    The City Islanders have been a presence in the USL for years now, and with that league looking more and more like it will be the future of Division II soccer in the U.S., the club is in a good place.

    The market’s teams have a combined 140 years in the region, a strong indicator of fan support. However, the loss in 2014 of the Harrisburg Stampede, an indoor football team, and a slow decline in attendance among its two oldest clubs in the face of an improving economy shows that the market is not invincible.

    Soccer and great demographics pushed Durham-Cary into the top 10.
    Photo by: ICON SPORTSWIRE


    8. Durham-Cary, N.C.

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): International League Durham Bulls (1980), NASL North Carolina FC (2007), NWSL North Carolina Courage (2017)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): Durham Bulls Athletic Park (1995), WakeMed Soccer Park (2002)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: Every baseball fan can quote a line from “Crash” Davis and “Nuke” LaLoosh. The 1988 film “Bull Durham” cemented the Bulls’ legacy within American folklore, and that fame still translates today for the team. The Class AAA franchise has made the list of top-selling clubs every year since MiLB began tracking the sale of team merchandise in 1993. The team also plays in one of the nicer complexes in all of the minors, with Durham Bulls Athletic Park getting a $19 million facelift before the 2014 season. The upgrades have helped the Bulls at the gate, with 2017 marking the team’s second-best year ever.

    Down the road in Cary, clubs from the NASL (North Carolina FC) and NWSL (North Carolina Courage) call WakeMed Soccer Park home in what is considered a thriving soccer region.

    Meanwhile, the market’s economy is one of the most improving in our study — in the past five years its population grew 6 percent, the amount of personal income grew 18 percent and unemployment is below the national average. Attendance will need to match the area’s economic trends in order to maintain its position in our ranking.

    9. Greenville, S.C.

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): South Atlantic League Greenville Drive (1984), ECHL Greenville Swamp Rabbits (2015)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): Fluor Field (2006), Bon Secours Wellness Arena (1998)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: Greenville jumps into our top 10 for the first time, surpassing its previous high of 34th in 2015. The city has the youngest overall tenure of any top-10 market, with its two clubs having a combined 37 years.

    The Drive filled 98 percent of its seats over the last five years, a feat unmatched by any baseball team in our study. Like its major league affiliate, the Red Sox, the Drive’s ballpark contains a manual scoreboard and its own 30-foot-high version of the Green Monster. The team and the city each pitched in $5 million last winter to pay for upgrades that included the addition of Green Monster seats, a renovated team store, a club area extension, a new 3,700-square-foot, 200-person capacity club, and additions to the Main Street and Field Street plazas.

    On the hockey side, the Swamp Rabbits rebranded from the Road Warriors in 2015 and drew a team-record 142,616 fans last season, making the ECHL playoffs after a two-season absence.

    10. Binghamton, N.Y.

    ❱❱ TEAMS (FIRST SEASON): Eastern League Binghamton Rumble Ponies (1992), AHL Binghamton Devils (1977)
    ❱❱ VENUES (YEAR OPENED): NYSEG Stadium (1992), Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena (1973)
    ❱❱ BREAKDOWN: At 246,000, Binghamton is the smallest market in our top 10 — and it’s getting smaller. The market lost 1.8 percent of its population over the past five years, and the region’s 5.3 percent unemployment rate is a full point higher than the national average. However, the combined attendance among its two clubs during the past year was 334,791, a 5 percent increase over the previous season. Additionally, the ballpark and arena each recently received a $2.5 million upgrade.

    On the baseball side, the club no longer shares its parent club’s name, after switching from the Mets to the Rumble Ponies prior to this season — a tribute to the city’s claim to be the “Carousel Capital of the World.” The hockey club also experienced a name change when it switched affiliates this summer from the Ottawa Senators to the more geographically logical New Jersey Devils.

    — Compiled by David Broughton, Brandon McClung and Austin Karp

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  • Wolves, Barnstormers thrive in Des Moines

    The NBA G League Iowa Wolves are among the elder statesmen of minor league basketball, having been in Des Moines for a decade. Only Sioux Falls, S.D., home to a hoops team since 1989, can boast a longer active tenure.

    After an eventful summer for the Wolves on the business side, it’s clear that the sport has a bright future in the city.

    In May, the Minnesota Timberwolves bought and rebranded the club, which had been called the Iowa Energy since its inception. The move has been positive for the Wolves.

    The NBA G League Iowa Wolves have been a stronghold in the market for 10 years.
    Photo by: IOWA WOLVES


    Kyle Davy, the team’s chief revenue officer, said season-ticket sales increased by 3 percent last season over the previous year, and he’s projecting an increase of twice that this season. Davy also said that while a 32 percent increase in sponsorship revenue from 2015-16 to 2016-17 was impressive, the coming campaign will be even better.
    “I expect an 82 percent increase from 2016-17 to this season as we transition to our new brand,” he said.

    The club drew roughly 110,000 fans in each of the past two seasons, up 29 percent from its inaugural season a decade ago, according to SBJ research.

    Even with that, there may be no better example of the city’s sports resiliency than Wells Fargo Arena’s other tenant.

    An empty seat at a Iowa Barnstormers football game from 1995 to 2000 was a rare sight, as the AFL team routinely packed venerable 10,000-seat Veterans Memorial Auditorium. But the aging building lacked the revenue streams needed to keep the franchise competitive, and after being relegated to the af2, the team’s attendance plummeted and it folded in 2001.

    When Wells Fargo Arena opened in 2008, the Barnstormers were reborn — first as part of the af2, then the AFL and, for the past three seasons, the Indoor Football League. And despite the seven-year hiatus, they remain one of the sport’s top draws, averaging 7,100 fans a game over the past five years.
    — David Broughton


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  • Minor League Markets: Methodology




    This is the seventh time SportsBusiness Journal has produced this ranking of the nation’s Top Minor League Markets, the first coming in 2005 and then every other year since.

    This year’s project included a review of the following:


    ■ 228 markets (219 ranked; nine others were tracked but were not ranked due to insufficient data)
    ■ 48 leagues
    ■ 382 teams
    ■ 242.7 million in total attendance
    ■ More than $900 million in construction at 78 new or extensively renovated venues

    Defining The Markets:

    Each team in this biennial survey was assigned a territory based on the location of its home venue within one of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 898 metropolitan (areas with a population of at least 50,000) and micropolitan (less than 50,000) market designations. Markets that are home to an MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL or MLS franchise are not measured.

    Compiling Data:

    Attendance was included for the five most recently completed seasons for each league whose regular season finished by Sept. 8 of this year. The Atlantic League, an independent baseball league, had one week remaining, and the regular season for the USL, soccer’s highest-level minor league, was nearly complete, so season-to-date figures were used for those leagues.

    No league or sport was weighted more than another.

    The attendance figures used came from official team and league reports, posted box scores and conversations with facility officials. As is the case at all levels of organized sports, reported attendance can vary from being a turnstile count to the number of tickets sold to the number of tickets distributed. Ticket prices were not factored into the ranking formula.

    The ranking also does not take into account other sports options in each market, such as racetracks, college programs or major junior hockey leagues.

    A team had to have completed at least two full seasons within the past five years to be included. For example, Kinston, N.C., Buies Creek, N.C., and Kissimmee, Fla., each has an active home team that completed its first season of play within the past year. We gathered attendance data for each, but because there are no past seasons against which to index, those markets are not included in the final ranking. Five other markets were researched but not included in the final ranking because sufficient attendance data was unavailable for any season played by a team in those markets during the measured period.

    Analyzing a total of 18 years of data over the course of these seven studies, we’ve learned that win-loss percentages for the majority of baseball and hockey teams — 70 percent of the teams tracked in the study are in those two sports — create little attendance variance, so that criterion is excluded from the methodology.

    In addition, references to a “current” or “lost” team pertain to a club’s most recent moniker and league. Numerous soccer and indoor football teams have changed names and/or leagues over the years but remained in the same market.

    Calculating The Score:

    The majority of each market’s total score comes from three category-specific measures: tenure rank, attendance rank and economic rank.

    Tenure made up approximately two-thirds of each market’s score and takes into account such support measurements as a team’s length of presence in its market and venue construction. Our tenure category essentially prevents new teams in new markets in new facilities from skewing results with a honeymoon effect, while rewarding markets that have retained their current clubs.

    Markets were penalized for having teams that folded or moved, although that deduction was eliminated if a market saw a team in that same sport return to town with only one season of play lost. Additionally, we excused historical one-year gaps in five markets that were brought on by weather, league mergers, venue construction and other circumstances that were beyond the parameters of “community support.”

    Three markets are reportedly losing a franchise in 2019.

    The Class AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox are expected to move into a new stadium in San Antonio (a major league market) in early 2019. As part of that move, the Rookie League Helena (Mont.) Brewers will replace the Sky Sox in Colorado Springs. The move would leave Helena without a minor league sports franchise, but Colorado Springs would not suffer in our 2019 study, as its tenure as a host of a team will continue.

    In Erie, Pa., the NBA G League Bayhawks plan to relocate to a new arena in College Park, Ga., in time for the 2019-20 season.

    These markets were not penalized because the clubs are still there and construction delays could affect the pending moves.

    Similarly, Comcast Spectacor announced in July that it will be placing an AHL club in Portland, Maine, in 2018. The market has been without a hockey team since the league’s Portland Pirates moved to Springfield, Mass., after the 2015-16 season. Portland was penalized in our study for losing the Pirates and will not be credited for a new franchise until it actually begins play.

    The rest of a market’s score is based on the yearly total attendance of all of its teams, the percentage of seats filled, and how those figures indexed against the region’s overall fluctuations in unemployment, population and each Total Personal Income (TPI).

    Markets gained or lost credit based on their attendance behavior relative to fluctuations in the economic metrics. For example, if a market’s unemployment rate decreased and TPI increased, attendance was expected to increase. June 2017 estimates from both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau were the sources.

    The 78 markets where construction was completed on at least one new or extensively upgraded minor league facility between Aug. 1, 2012, and July 31, 2017, received extra credit. Markets with venues under construction but not open as of press time did not receive that bonus.

    Extra credit also was given to Auburn, N.Y.; Elmira, N.Y.; Rochester, N.Y.; Syracuse, N.Y.; North Little Rock, Ark; and Elizabethton, Tenn., for being home to teams whose ownership is made up entirely of citizen shareholders.

    Points could be deducted from a market’s total for three reasons: losing a franchise, and/or failing to keep attendance in line with fluctuations in the area’s unemployment, population or TPI. Additionally, if a club went from being a professional team to an amateur or semi-pro team, that market was penalized. Fifty-six markets finished with a negative score because of indexing against the No. 1 market’s total.

    In the end, Des Moines, Iowa, a city that is home to a professional team in four different sports, had the highest point total, and all markets were indexed against that number.

    Leagues Tracked:

    Baseball/softball

    AA: American Association (Independent)
    APP: Appalachian League (Rookie)
    AL: Atlantic League (Independent)
    C-A: Can-Am League (Independent)
    CAL: California League (A, Advanced)
    CAR: Carolina League (A, Advanced)
    EL: Eastern League (AA)
    FSL: Florida State League (A, Advanced)
    FL: Frontier League (Independent)
    IL: International League (AAA)
    MWL: Midwest League (A)
    NYPL: New York-Penn League (A, Short-Season)
    NAL: North American League* (Independent)
    NPF: National Pro Fastpitch (softball)
    NWL: Northwest League (A, Short-Season)
    PA: Pacific Association (Independent)
    PCL: Pacific Coast League (AAA)
    PL: Pioneer League (Rookie)
    SAL: South Atlantic League (A)
    SL: Southern League (AA)
    TL: Texas League (AA)
    ULB: United League Baseball* (Independent)

    Basketball

    NBAG: NBA G League

    Indoor football

    AAL: American Arena League
    APF: Arena Pro Football*
    AFL: Arena Football League
    AIF: American Indoor Football*
    CAIFL: Can-Am Indoor Football League
    CIF: Champions Indoor Football
    CIFL: Continental Indoor Football League*
    CPIFL: Champions Professional Indoor Football League*
    IFL: Indoor Football League
    LSFL: Lone Star Football League*
    MAIFL: Mid-Atlantic Indoor Football League
    PIFL: Professional Indoor Football League*
    UIFL: United Indoor Football League/Ultimate Indoor Football League*
    X-League: X-League Indoor Football*

    Hockey

    AHL: American Hockey League
    CHL: Central Hockey League*
    ECHL
    FHL: Federal Hockey League
    SPHL: Southern Professional Hockey League

    Soccer

    MASL: Major Arena Soccer League
    MISL: Major Indoor Soccer League*
    NASL: North American Soccer League
    NWSL: National Women’s Soccer League
    PASL: Professional Arena Soccer League*
    USL: United Soccer League

    * League ceased operation during the measured period but can be represented in the study by a current team that previously played in the league.

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