SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KWSN)- Sioux Falls has attracted national recognition again… this time for its minor league sports teams.
Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal has listed Sioux Falls No. 10 on its list of 239 minor league sports markets. This is the second time Sioux Falls has made the top 10, hitting No. 9 in 2007. The city also reached No. 11 on the Journal’s list in 2009.
The Journal reports that, while Sioux Falls has the lowest population and amount of total wealth of any of the top 10 markets, it also has the lowest unemployment rate and “the region’s attendance at its teams’ games has gone up 5 percent over the past five years, matching the population growth.”
The report goes on to note that the local minor league clubs enjoyed record or near-record attendance in their most recently completed seasons.“The fan passion is clearly there,” says David Broughton, one of the study’s authors. “The Canaries are the only unaffiliated team to play in a top 10-ranked market. And indoor football has been the most volatile segment in minor league sports over the past decade, but Sioux Falls has weathered the ‘Storm.’”Broughton says that over the past 5 years, attendance has been higher than the market’s population by a ratio of 1.35 to 1 — one of only a few markets to boast an attendance rate that is higher than its population.
“The people of Sioux Falls are rabid sports fans and the Street and Smith’s recognition proves just that,” says Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether. “However, with our new events center opening soon, we want to break in to that top 5 slot. I like our chances!”
The Journal also cites the long tenure of the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the city, and the on-going success of the Indoor Football League’s Sioux Falls Storm. Both teams have played home games at the Sioux Falls Arena through this past season, along with the United States Hockey League’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
“Sioux Falls has long been known for the beauty of its namesake, and for the great Midwestern friendliness of its residents,” says Teri Schmidt, executive director of the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “Those alone make our city a popular destination for travelers. But, this designation also proves that we’re not a one-dimensional town. This is a vibrant, progressive city that is growing in popularity and stature, and our minor league sports teams and fans are certainly a significant part of that.”
Sioux Falls is currently constructing a new 12,000 seat events center—the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, set to open in the fall of 2014. The publication attributes its construction to the strong support of the city’s minor league teams. The facility will be managed by SMG, which also currently manages the Sioux Falls Arena and Convention Center and the Orpheum Theater Center.
To get closer to No. 1 in the future (the next study will be conducted in 2015), Broughton believes fans have to fill the seats at the new events center.
“Despite the good attendance-to-population ratio, a total of about 40% of available stadium+arena seats went unfilled in the market over the 5 year period. Attendance needs to increase as population does, which it has so far,” says Broughton.
A total of 239 markets were ranked in the study. Toledo, Ohio was the Journal’s top pick for minor league sports markets. Other top 10 markets include Rochester, N.Y.; Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa.; San Bernardino County, Calif.; Springfield, Mass.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Des Moines, Iowa; and Spokane, Wash.