How do Maritime cities compare to cities of a similar population elsewhere in North America? In this post we will examine if Maritime cities have the capacity of supporting minor league ball by comparing them to similar sized cities across Canada/USA by comparing the number of minor league baseball/hockey/basketball/soccer/football, junior hockey, summer collegiate baseball and major college sports. I will also include the number of home games each team plays as a way of seeing if the Maritimes is an over/under saturated sports market. By major college I mean NCAA Division I schools as anything else (including CIS) doesn’t receive enough support to qualify as major in my opinion (with some exceptions such as Laval football).
All population figures are from the 2010 US Census and 2011 Canadian census. Each city will be compared to two or three North American cities with a similar metro population.
Halifax, Nova Scotia (2011 Census Metropolitan Area of 390,328)
– Currently supports the Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (34 home games) and Halifax Rainmen (16 home games). Total of 50 home games by local teams.
– Comparable #1: Manchester, New Hampshire (2010 Metropolian Statistical Area of 400,721) which supports the Manchester Monarchs, AHL (38 home games), and New Hampshire Fisher Cats, EL (71 home games). Manchester supports 109 home games by their teams. People in Manchester also have the option of driving one hour to Boston to attend Bruins, Red Sox, Patriots or Celtics games. It should be noted that the Monarchs are being demoted to the ECHL for next season as part of the massive AHL/ECHL shift taking place.
– Comparable #2: Quad Cities of Illinois/Iowa (2010 population of 379,690). The Quad Cities support the Quad Cities River Bandits, MWL (70 home games), Quad City Mallards, ECHL (36 home games). The Quad Cities are able to support 106 home games with their professional teams.
– Comparable #3: Peoria, Illinois (2010 population of 379,186). Peoria supports the Peoria Rivermen, SPHL (28 home games), Peoria Chiefs, MWL (70 home games), and Bradley Braves basketball (19 home games in 2014-15). Peoria supports their teams for a total of 117 games a season.
– Using these three examples, Halifax is underserved by high level sports franchises as Manchester, the Quad Cities and Peoria all support over 100 games a season, compared to Halifax’s 50. Based on these numbers, professional baseball could work in Halifax, especially considering it is held during the QMJHL/NBLC off seasons.
St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador (2011 population of 196,966)
– The market currently supports the St. John’s Ice Caps, AHL (38 home games).
– Comparable #1: Fargo, North Dakota (2010 population of 208,777). The city supports the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, AA (50 home games), Fargo Force, USHL (30 home games). Frago supports 80 home games plus North Dakota State University teams.
– Comparable #2: Johnson City, Tennessee (2010 population of 198,716). Johnson City is home to the Appy League’s Johnson City Cardinals (34 home games).
– Comparable #3: Kelowna, British Columbia (2011 population of 179,839). Kelowna is home to both the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets (36 home games) and the Kelowna Falcons of the Pacific International League (summer collegiate) (25 home games). Kelowna hosts 61 games a year.
– Based on these numbers, St. John’s could host a pro team (especially if the IceCaps are moved as is rumoured and the city could end up in the ECHL or QMJHL). Travel will be a nightmare and they would likely have to pay for the visiting teams to come to town (as was the chase for the QMJHL’s Fog Devils). If this issue can be overcome, St. John’s is a possibility. Having said that, the summer collegiate Alaska League in 1988 had teams in Hawaii, San Francisco and Spokane (actually Pullman, WA) in addition to only two in Alaska.
Moncton, New Brunswick (2011 population of 138,644)
– The market is currently served by the Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL (34 home games) and Moncton Miracles, NBLC (16 home games). Moncton hosts 50 games a year involving their franchises. Also hosts the CFL’s Touchdown Atlantic.
– Comparable #1: Sioux City, Iowa (2010 population of 143,577). Sioux City supports the Sioux City Explorers, AA (50 home games), Sioux City Musketeers, USHL (30 home games), Sioux City Bandits, CPIFL (indoor football) (6 home games). Sioux City hosts 86 games a year between these three teams.
– Comparable #2: Midland, Texas (2010 population of 136,872). Midland hosts the Midland RockHounds, TL (70 home games), Midland/Odessa Sockers, PDL (7 home games). Midland hosts 77 home games involving their teams. This does not included the Odessa Jackolopes (NAHL) and West Texas Roughnecks (IFL) of nearby Odessa. This would put the total number of games supported to over 100.
– A minor league team playing around 50 home games would put Moncton inline with both Sioux City and Midland. With appropriate ticket prices and regional rivalries Moncton should host be able to host a baseball team.
Saint John, New Brunswick (2011 population of 127,761)
– The markets currently is home to the Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL (34 home games) and Saint John Millrats, NBLC (16 home games). Like Halifax and Moncton, Saint John hosts 50 games a year.
– Comparable #1: Morgantown, West Virginia (2010 population of 129,709). Morgantown is home to the new West Virginia Black Bears, of the NYPL. The team will play 38 home games. Morgantown is also home to the University of West Virginia of the Big 12. In 2015, WVU will host 14 men’s basketball games and 7 football games. This brings the total number of games hosted by the city to 59.
– Comparable #2: Glens Falls, New York (2010 population of 128,923). Glens Falls is home to the AHL’s Adirondack Flames (38 home games), and th PGCBL’s Glens Falls Dragons (24 home games). The city’s teams host 62 home games a year. The Flames are being shifted to the ECHL next season as part of the massive AHL/ECHL shift taking place.
– Comparable #3: Altoona, Pennsylvania (2010 population of 127,089). Altoona is a one team town (EL’s Altoona Curve) who hosts a 71 game home schedule.
– Based on these figures, Saint John may have trouble supporting a pro baseball team in addition to both the Sea Dogs and Millrats. A summer collegiate team would be the best fit here.
Sydney, Nova Scotia (2011 population of 101,619)
– Sydney is home to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL (34 home games).
– Comparable #1: Danville, Virginia (2010 population of 106,561). Danville is home to the Appy League’s Danville Braves (34 home games)
– Comparable #2: Lethbridge, Alberta (2011 population of 105,999). Lethbridge is home to the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes (36 home games) and the WMBL’s Lethbridge Bulls (23 home games). Lethbridge hosts a total of 59 home games between the two teams.
– A professional team would have a hard time surviving in this market, especially with the economy the way it is, but summer collegiate team should be able to survive.
Fredericton, New Brunswick (2011 population of 94,268)
– Fredericton is home to no professional or major junior teams. It is home to both UNB and St. Thomas University. UNB hockey is big enough I will count it for the purposes of how many “big time” games the city hosts. UNB hosts 14 hockey games a season.
– Comparable #1: Fairbanks, Alaska (2010 population of 97,581). Like Fredericton, Fairbanks is first and foremost a college town. The city is home to the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks of the Alaska Baseball League (15ish home games). The major team at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks is the hockey team (18 home games in 2014-15). This puts the city’s total of home games at 33+.
– Comparable #2: Rome, Georgia (2010 population of 96,317). Rome is home to the Sally League’s Rome Braves (70 games). Rome also hosts the Georgia Fire of the Professional Indoor Football League (6 home games).
– Comparable #3: Elmira, New York (2010 population of 88,830). Elmira is home to the ECHL’s Elmira Jackels (36 home games) and Elmira Pioneers of the PGCBL (26 home games). This brings the city’s total to 62 home games hosted.
– Based on these numbers, Fredericton certainly has the capacity to host a collegiate summer team and with the lack of competition, a pro team is within the realm of possibility. The city certainly could use a team (baseball, QMJHL, NBLC) that could represent the entire city and not just a university.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (2011 population of 64,487)
– The island capital currently is home to both the Charlottetown Islanders, QMJHL (34 home games) and the Island Storm, NBLC (16 home games). This puts them on par with Halifax, Moncton & Saint John by hosting 50 games a year between their teams.
– Comparable #1: Medicine Hat, Alberta (2011 population of 72,807). Medicine Hat is home to the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers (36 home games) and the WMBL’s Medicine Hat Mavericks (23 home games). This puts the city at 59 games hosted.
– Comparable #2: North Bay, Ontario (2011 population of 64,043). North Bay is home to the OHL’s North Bay Battalion (34 home games).
– Comparable #3: Walla Walla, Washington (2010 population 62,589). Walla Walla is home to the West Coast League (summer collegiate) Walla Walla Sweets (27 home games).
– Based on these figures, Charlottetown is over capacity in terms of the number of teams/games they host. Having said that, they need to pull from all over the island in order to support the teams they do have and will have to do so again if they were to get a baseball team. Summer collegiate league would be their only option.
Having broken down each of Atlantic Canada’s seven biggest markets, an Atlantic based summer collegiate league could work in each market and possibly a few others (somewhere in northern New Brunswick, Truro, Corner Brook for a few examples). A pro team could only work in Halifax and Moncton. If they could overcome a few issues both St. John’s and Fredericton could also host a professional team. Saint John is probably a little over maxed with both hockey and basketball, but with proper marketing and regionalization a pro club may work there. But I don’t see three pro teams working in New Brunswick, so a Saint John team work come at the expense of Fredericton (or Moncton). Cape Breton (despite baseball tradition with succesful Little League and Senior teams) and Charlottetown probably won’t make a go of it at the professional level due to lack of population, poor economy and competition for the sports dollar.