Today, the Sports Business Journal released their biannual rankings of the Minor League Markets. Out of 212 U.S. markets reviewed, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton market came in 37th, up 122 spots from 159 two years ago.
There are a number of factors that go into how they develop the rankings. One of them is tenure. The Penguins have been playing at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza since 1999 and the RailRiders / Yankees / Red Barons have been around longer than that, since 1989.
Remember that the Rankings only look at Markets who do not host a major league franchise. So teams that host NBA franchises (i.e. Charlotte, Milwaukee, etc.) are not ranked.
The top markets from an AHL perspective ahead of Wilkes-Barre / Scranton are Des Moines, Iowa (home of the Iowa Wild) Inland Empire, California (home of the Ontario Reign, but the study included the team as an ECHL franchise) Hershey-Harrisburg, PA (home of the 11-time Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears) Grand Rapids, MI (Grand Rapids Griffins) Bakersfield, California (Bakersfield Condors, but same criteria apply to the Ontario Reign as an ECHL franchise the year prior) Binghamton, Rochester, Austin (the Texas Stars play out of Cedar Park, TX, part of the Austin market) Providence then Wilkes-Barre.
Personally, I consider most of the towns ranked ahead of Wilkes-Barre larger towns. Des Moines, Harrisburg, Austin and Providence are all State Capitals, for example.
Can Wilkes-Barre ever be a Top 10 minor league market? I don’t think so, personally, but Top 40 is a pretty decent accomplishment.
The AHL schedule should be out some time next week, so but for other major breaking news this week, check back then.