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Volume 24 No. 160
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SBD/SBJ Countdown To Top Minor League Market: No. 3 Hershey-Harrisburg

SBD and SBJ next Monday will unveil our biennial ranking of the country’s top minor league markets among more than 225 communities nationwide. It is a project that takes into consideration more than 400 teams and close to 50 leagues as well as almost 250 million fans in total minor league attendance over the past five seasons. The countdown to No. 1 is underway, and today we look at the No. 3 market -- Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa.

AHL Hershey Bears
Giant Center
Double-A Eastern League
Harrisburg Senators
Metro Bank Park
1987 (renovated 2010)
USL Pro Harrisburg City Islanders
Skyline Sports Complex
1987 (renovated 2008)
AIF Harrisburg Stampede
Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center
1966 (renovated 2001)
PASL Harrisburg Heat
Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center
1966 (renovated 2001)

STAYING STRONG: The No. 1 market in our survey in both '09 and '11, the area’s sports scene continues to thrive. The market’s attendance-to-population ratio is the highest of any multiple-team market in our study, with fans outnumbering residents more than 2.5-to-1 (attendance of 3.21 million vs. population of 1.23 million). The AHL Hershey Bears, founded more than 80 years ago by chocolate magnate Milton Hershey as the Hershey B’ars, are the oldest minor league hockey franchise in the country. The team averaged a franchise-record 10,046 fans per game last season, extending what is now a nine-year streak of year-over-year attendance growth. The market was further buoyed in November by the return of the PASL Heat, an indoor soccer team that during its '91-'03 existence regularly averaged more than 5,000 fans per game. The new team enjoyed similar success in its inaugural season, filling 70% of the seats at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center. Fifteen miles to the west, though, in the state capital of Harrisburg, the Double-A Eastern League Senators have seen their attendance drop slightly in each of the last two seasons, although last year’s average was still 74% higher than it was in '08, prior to Metro Bank Park’s two-year, $45M upgrade. Additionally, the AIF Stampede and USL Pro Islanders have filled just one-third of the seats at their respective venues, pulling the market’s score down slightly.

ON DECK: Tomorrow will feature our No. 2 market -- another former top-ranked market that can boast of recent successes at the rink.