Augusta still majors in minors

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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


No. 1: Fort Wayne, Ind. UHL Komets, AF2 Freedom, MWL Wizards
No. 21: Augusta SAL 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: Savannah SAL Sand Gnats
No. 242: Macon Lost 3 teams
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bccinco 09/18/07 - 05:08 am
While I do commend the

While I do commend the Augusta sports franchises and fans for their hard work and support of the clubs, this doesn't make Augusta a destination for travelers. I live in southeast Texas and surely wouldn't travel to Shreveort to visit. Nor does it have much of an impact on business recruitment. especially with the plight of the Richmond County schools and a commission that cannot agree on the color of the sky, much less the development of the greater Augusta area. For the most part, Augusta is the same as it was when I moved away in 1980.

sjgraci 09/18/07 - 09:20 am
It's almost hockey season! Go

It's almost hockey season! Go Lynx! Oh, and Augusta did not know what hockey was in 1980.

KingJames 09/18/07 - 09:33 am
Bccinco, I left in 1991 and

Bccinco, I left in 1991 and very little has changed since then, too.

WarEagle 09/18/07 - 11:08 am
From a personal point of

From a personal point of view, if it weren't for the Augusta teams handing out a whole lot of "free (comp) tickets", Augusta would probably have lost a few of these franchises before now. In short, Augusta does a mediocre job in supporting these teams.

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