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Street & Smithâ€™s SportsBusiness Journal publication has issued its annual Top 10 ranking of minor league markets in the U.S.
The Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa. market in central Pennsylvania earned top honors for the second year in a row, according to SBJ Research Director David Broughton, who researched and wrote the article. San Bernadino, Calif. finished second with the Pawtucket/Providence area coming in a solid third.
Hereâ€™s the top 10 list:
1) Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa.
2) San Bernardino County, Calif.
3) Providence-Pawtucket, R.I.
4) Reading, Pa.
5) Portland, Maine
6) Syracuse, N.Y.
7) Charleston, S.C.
8) Modesto, Calif.
9) Idaho Falls, Idaho
10) Spokane, Wash.
Hershey-Harrisburg is home to the Washington Nationalsâ€™ Class AA minor league baseball affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, as well as the American Hockey Leagueâ€™s Hershey Bears, a long-time AHL franchise which owns a proud tradition and history.
San Bernadino boasts three minor league baseball franchises and one hockey squad.
Pawtucket/Providence, of course, is home to the Pawtucket Red Sox and the AHLâ€™s Providence Bruins.
Broughton makes a good case for his selection of Hershey-Harrisburg in his article. In a subsequent email exchange, he was asked about his views on the Pawtucket/Providence minor league market.
â€śMore than any other market in our study, Providence/Pawtucket benefits from proximity to the major league parent club,â€ť Broughton said in an email from his office down in North Carolina. â€śBoston Red Sox fans know Fenway Park is always sold out, so the drive to Pawtucket and the lure of cheaper tickets, an actual parking spot, and a pretty good chance at seeing a current or future big league players helps keep attendance strong.
â€śAnd with the Boston Bruinsâ€™ recent success, the same holds true (for hockey),â€ť Broughton added.
â€śAlso helping boost its ranking is the marketâ€™s overall attendance has gone up in the past five years, despite a flat population growth and persistent unemployment rate.â€ť
Here is Broughtonâ€™s story analysis of the Pawtucket/Providence market:
-- Teams (first season): International League (AAA) Pawtucket Red Sox (1970), AHL Providence Bruins (1992)
-- Venues (year opened): McCoy Stadium (1942; renovated 1999), Dunkinâ€™ Donuts Center (1972; renovated 2008)
â€śThe Providence-Pawtucket market is the wealthiest market among our projectâ€™s top 10, with a median household income of $55,652 (11 percent higher than the U.S. median), and its 1.6 million residents is second only to San Bernardino among the top 10. Yet confronted with nearly three years of double-digit unemployment (10.4 percent as of June) and a stagnant population, the marketâ€™s two minor league clubs have combined to consistently draw roughly 900,000 fans annually to their games. Thatâ€™s about 8,000 fans per game on average. Itâ€™s that strength at the gate despite the economic challenges that sprung the market from No. 37 in the rankings in 2009 to No. 3 this year.â€ť
The link to Broughtonâ€™s story: Journal/Issues/2011/08/15/Research-and-Ratings/MinorLeagueMkts-main.aspx