GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Metro Grand Rapids has been ranked No. 1 in a listing of the best minor league sports markets in the country.
A Monday article from the Sports Business Journal cited franchises “integral to the community” and that “refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
“Over the past quarter century, these teams and their fans have faced obstacles the way a family does — together,” the publication said.
The Grand Rapids Griffins averaged over 8,200 fans per game at Van Andel Arena last season and have consistently been among the top draws in the AHL.
“It’s great for our staff, great for the organization, but even more importantly, I think it’s great for the city,” Griffins President Tim Gortsema said of the Sports Business Journal recognition. “It’s a recognition that ultimately the fans drive and the fans earn, so to receive this recognition on a sporting basis is awesome.”
In a year when the West Michigan Whitecaps had the worst record in their history, they still averaged over 5,300 visitors per game at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park.
“There was a time as (father and Whitecaps co-founder Lew Chamberlin) was getting this ready to go where people thought minor league sports in Grand Rapids was a pipe dream,” Whitecaps CEO Joe Chamberlin said. “And I’m happy these many years later to be winning an award like this as a region and as a city. It says a lot about how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.”
The addition of the Grand Rapids Drive in recent years also hasn’t hurt the region’s ascension in the Sports Business Journal rankings; we were listed No. 6 two years ago.