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Toledo ranks second in minor league sports markets

Jim Russ
The Detroit News
Tigers catcher James McCann bats for the Toledo Mud Hens last season at Fifth Third Field.

Toledo is ranked the No. 2 market in the nation for minor league sports teams by Sports Business Journal.

Toledo is home to baseball's Mud Hens -- the Detroit Tigers' Triple-A affiliate -- and hockey's Walleye. The Walleye are in the East Coast Hockey League and are affiliated with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

Sports Business Journal examined 386 teams in 229 markets. It did not include markets that have an MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL or MLS franchise.

Sports Business Journal considered team tenure, team attendance, and the market's economic health in compiling its rankings.

David Broughton of Sports Business Journal said the Walleye drew 296,739 fans in the 2014-15 season (including playoffs), "the most for a hockey franchise in a market that has hosted professional hockey almost continuously since 1947."

The Walleye play at the Huntington Center, which opened in 2009.

Broughton said the Mud Hens' 2014 attendance of 545,265 was 4 percent below average since 2002, when Fifth Third Field opened. "Still, fans filled more than 76 percent of the ballpark's seats over the past five seasons, a rate higher than that of any other baseball team in the survey's top 10."

Grand Rapids, home to baseball's West Michigan Whitecaps, the NBA D-League's Grand Rapids Drive, and the Griffins, placed No. 10 in the rankings.

No. 1 was the Quad Cities area of Rock Island and Moline in Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa.