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Boise as Triple-A market? There’s talk

Proposed Boise ballpark

With all the talk about a new ballpark in downtown Boise, one small detail didn’t get much attention: business leaders want to consider building a Triple-A ballpark. Here’s why it’s a good idea.

A year ago we argued that Boise would be a good destination for the then-relocating Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), and if anything time has shown it’s an even better argument than before. The market is currently served by the Boise Hawks (short season A; Northwest League), who play out of the very basic Memorial Stadium.

What makes Boise a suitable Triple-A market? Demographics, money, money and money. We were playing on some hunches and some basic demographics a year ago when we argued Boise would make a good PCL market; luckily, the city of Boise commissioned Conventions, Sports & Leisure for a more in-depth analysis. (You can view the entire CSL report on the Better Boise Coalition website; look for the Market Viability Analysis link.) Here are some highlights from the CSL report:

  • Boise has roughly doubled in size since 1990; its Core Based Statistical Area (a measurement used by the U.S Census Bureau) in 2011 is estimated as being 623,700 over most of southwestern Idaho, but in reality most of this population is in Ada County (containing Boise) and adjoining Canyon County. This is the heart of the Treasure Valley. The 2009 Census rankings puts Boise-Nampa as the #85 Core Based Statistical Area in the United States, ahead of PCL markets like Des Moines and Reno and similar to International League markets like Toledo and Durham.
  • And it’s a young, active population. In terms of the 18-to-54 demographic — the folks who actually go to baseball games — the average age in Boise is 34.1, as opposed to the national average of 37. In terms of Triple-A demographics, Boise would be home to one of the youngest markets.
  • The median income is $52,500, as opposed to the national average of $52,800. That median income is pretty good news if you’re looking at Triple-A in Boise. An income of $52,500 buys you a heckuva lot more in Boise than in, say, California or New York. With lower housing costs, there’s more disposable income in the pockets of Boise residents than elsewhere in most of the country.
  • There are 25,000 corporations headquartered or with operations in the Boise area. Not a bad number; it wouldn’t be the lowest in the Pacific Coast League.

Boise Memorial Stadium

There are some other factors not discussed in the CSL report that are important.

  • Weather, surprisingly, won’t be a big issue for those April and September games. Boise receives very little snowfall in winter and rain in summer; it’s in the midst of an arid region, buffeted by mountains. When there is snow in springtime, it’s usually melted by noon. On average, Boise receives a half-inch of snow in the entire month of April. Ada County, reportedly, doesn’t even own a dedicated snow-plowing vehicle.
  • The CSL report listed a whole set of potential competitors to any new facility in the market, but failed to emphasize one point: the lack of a summer competitor. Boise State has a major football program and winter sports in the form of D-League basketball and ECHL hockey draw well at Qwest Arena. But the BSU and Qwest Arena events occur in winter and fall, save the summertime concert at Qwest Arena. While there will some competition for events between the arena and the ballpark, any baseball team would have summer to themselves in terms of market awareness.
  • Boise Airport is a major airport, served by every large airline, including Southwest, Delta, United, US Airways, Horizon and American. Southwest and Horizon, in particular, runs a large number of nonstops daily to other major PCL cities, including Las Vegas, Seattle and Salt Lake City. And being only seven hours from Reno, six hours from Salt Lake City and nine hours from Tacoma, it fits rather nicely in the PCL footprint.
  • This is totally subjective, but spend some time in Boise (as we do annually) and you’ll realize something: it’s a market on the rise with something to prove. In baseball, there are markets on the rise, stable markets and markets on the decline. A smart owner looks for a market on the rise, and after being labeled as a backwaters hick town for so long, Boise residents act like they have something to prove. It’s an intangible that should be considered.

We’ve been told a move to Triple-A is definitely on the agenda for the Better Boise Coalition folks, less so for the Hawks. It will take $18 million or so to bring in a Triple-A team — and we think there are plenty of wealthy folks in the area who could make such a purchase work.

Top picture: Rendering courtesy of Better Boise Coalition. Bottom picture: Memorial Stadium.

RELATED STORIES: Boise ballpark search to focus on downtown sites; Boise in search of new ballpark site; Memorial Stadium / Boise Hawks


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