Augusta still majors in minors

Among sports fans nationwide, Augusta is best known for its one week of major championship golf each April.

However, the rest of the city's professional sports scene has become a major player in the minor leagues, according to a recent ranking in a national publication.

SportsBusiness Journal ranked Augusta 21st in the nation among "Best Minor League Markets," in the Aug. 20-26 edition. Among markets in the Southeast, only Shreveport, La., at No. 17, ranked higher.

"I think this ranking speaks volumes to the quality of minor league sports in Augusta," Mayor Deke Copenhaver said. "The ranking should help us continue to recruit more businesses and residents to the area. To be in a community that has minor league sports with the quality we have is a strong selling point."

Augusta features the Class A GreenJackets baseball team of the South Atlantic League, the Lynx hockey team of the ECHL and the Spartans indoor football team of the World Indoor Football League.

"It just affirms why we believe Augusta is a great market, and we want to keep hockey in Augusta for that reason," Lynx general manager and co-owner Dan Troutman said.

Ripken Baseball, led by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., owns the GreenJackets, while the Lynx and Spartans each are locally owned and operated.

"It doesn't surprise me Augusta is No. 2 in the Southeast," GreenJackets general manager Nick Brown said. "Ripken Baseball would not have invested in this market if they didn't think it was such a strong area. Obviously, the quality of life in the area is evolving, and the face of the sports market is moving in a positive direction."

Markets were ranked by: Tenure , attendance and economy.

The study tracked 572 teams in 48 leagues across 242 markets. Areas that include a major league franchise were not included.

Tenure included each team's length of presence in a market and the total number of team seasons the past five years. For example, the GreenJackets and Lynx each have played five seasons in five years, while the Spartans have played two, giving Augusta 12 total team-years out of 15 possible.

Attendance tracked all a market's teams and percent of seats filled .

Economic rank factored in unemployment, population and income in a market.

Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or steven.l.sanders@augustachronicle.com.

NOTABLE MINOR LEAGUE MARKETS

MARKET
TEAMS
No. 1: Fort Wayne, Ind.UHL Komets, AF2 Freedom, MWL Wizards
No. 21: AugustaSAL GreenJackets, ECHL Lynx, WIFL Spartans
T-No. 35: Rome, Ga.SAL Braves, AIFA Renegades
No. 50: Charleston, S.C.SAL RiverDogs, USL Battery, ECHL Stingrays; lost 2 teams
No. 59: Columbus, Ga.SAL Catfish, SPHL Cottonmouths, WIFL Lions; lost 1 team
No. 100: SavannahSAL Sand Gnats
No. 242: MaconLost 3 teams

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