Minor League Markets: Around the country
■ Wichita, Kan. (No. 54)
While waiting for a few indoor football seasons to wrap up last month — those seasons would cap off our research — we did a preliminary ranking based on the numbers we had already gathered. The result was a near-statistical tie for No. 10 between Spokane, Wash.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Wichita, three markets with playoff-bound football teams. But when the news came later in July that the MISL Wichita Wings were folding after just two seasons, Wichita’s rank dropped. MISL officials say they expect a new franchise will replace the Wings in Wichita, but the league will not field a soccer team in the market for the 2013-14 season.
Wichita has two new facilities and one renovated venue that have debuted in recent years, and two of its three remaining franchises — the American Association Wichita Wingnuts and CHL Wichita Thunder — have been in town for more than 20 years. Because of the those strengths, and because our methodology largely forgives a one-year absence of a team, Wichita could contend for top-10 status in our 2015 survey if soccer returns for 2014-15.
■ Johnstown, Pa. (No. 229)
Perhaps Johnstown’s sports legacy is best suited for the entertainment world.
The 1977 movie “Slap Shot,” featuring Paul Newman as an aging hockey player/coach, was a parody loosely based on the real-life Johnstown Jets (called the Charlestown Chiefs in the film) and their North American Hockey League championship in 1976. The city’s real-life hockey team relocated to Greenville, S.C., following the completion of the 2009-10 ECHL season.
The 1983 movie “All the Right Moves,” starring Tom Cruise, Lea Thompson and Craig T. Nelson, was filmed in Johnstown and depicted a high school football team set in the fictional town of Ampipe. The film’s title could be seen as a misnomer of sorts, as the market saw four indoor football teams fold between 2000 and 2012.
Finally, in his 1980 hit “The River,” Bruce Springsteen croons “I got a job working construction, for the Johnstown Company, but lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy.” Since then, the market’s population has dropped 41 percent, to 21,000, according to U.S. census data.
■ Looking Ahead
If the local plans in Loudon County, Va., come to fruition, that market would make its debut in our study in 2015. Ground was broken this spring on $32 million, 5,500-seat Edelman Financial Field, which is scheduled to open next summer as home to the expansion Atlantic League (Ind.) Loudoun Hounds and NASL Virginia Cavalry FC. The Washington, D.C., suburb has high expectations for the teams, as the market has the highest median household income of any county in the United States ($119,000 per household), according to the most recent U.S. census data. It also was the fourth fastest-growing market in the United States between 2000 and 2012, nearly doubling its population to 334,000 during that time period. We’ll be watching.