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Quad Cities: #1 market for minor-league sports

Quad Cities River BanditsThe Quad Cities of Iowa-Illinois was named the best minor-league market in the United States, with strong attendance from the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low A; Midwest League) leading the way.

Sports Business Daily released its annual ranking of minor league markets, and this year the Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa; Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline in Illinois) came out on top thanks to the upward path for the River Bandits and increased attendance for the Quad City Mallards (ECHL) hockey team. Sports Business Daily also decided to throw in attendance for the Clinton LumberKings (Low A; Midwest League) into the mix. From SBD:

“When I am evaluating teams, the No. 1 thing I look at is, ‘To what degree does the market support the venue?’” said [Dave] Heller, whose Main Street Baseball, the holding company through which he owns the River Bandits, also owns the Class A High Desert (Calif.) Mavericks, Rookie League Billings (Mont.) Mustangs and Class A Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks. “In the Quad Cities, the municipality invests in the venue every single year. It’s a unique partnership.”

Just under $4 million has been spent in ballpark improvements over the past five years, he said. And the investments clearly are paying off. Average attendance last year was 3,885 fans per game, an all-time high for the franchise and up 72 percent from 2007, the year before Heller’s Main Street bought the team. This season, the club is poised to match last year’s record average per game and possibly could break its single-season total attendance record of 260,000 set in 1994.

“We have a waiting list for outfield signs, corporate sponsorships are up 15 percent over last season, weddings and special events are up 12 percent this year, and concessions per caps are up 6 percent over last season,” Heller said. And ticket sales for the Ferris wheel? “Up a whopping 24 percent over last season,” he said, giddily.

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