A study by the Sport Business Journal named Fort Wayne among the top 10 minor-league sports markets in the country.
The SBJ researched 235 markets, with Toledo earning the No. 1 spot. Fort Wayne was No. 7.
Despite a population growth rate of only 2.8 percent over the past five years, the market’s overall attendance count for its teams increased 13.8 percent, SBJ wrote.
Fort Wayne was the only Indiana market in the top 70. South Bend was No. 75, Evansville No. 138 and Gary No. 145.
The Summit City – home to the TinCaps, Mad Ants and Komets – has been atop the SBJ study before. Fort Wayne was No. 1 in 2007.
TinCaps president Mike Nutter said the credit goes to the fans.
People know. They care, and they have a passion, said Nutter, who said his team could set a record for attendance this season if TinCaps get to play all of their games. I think it’s extremely unique.
Nutter came to Fort Wayne in pursuit of the Wizards job in 1999. That night, he said, he went to a Komets game. The Wizards moved downtown and became the TinCaps after the 2008 season.
Seeing how packed a minor league hockey game was, and seeing the intensity the fans brought, helped persuade Nutter to take the job.
And he’s seen the same type of enthusiasm for his TinCaps the past five seasons.
Say we win (Monday), Nutter said. Wednesday or Thursday we’re still winning, and I go out to lunch, it doesn’t matter where, somebody will say, Hey, you’re the TinCaps guy. You guys are hot.’
Fort Wayne took a hit in the rankings because it lost its indoor football team, the Fort Wayne Firehawks, which went defunct after the 2010 season.
Team tenure in the city, and the retention of minor league teams, accounted for two-thirds of the SBJ’s ranking criterion.
Attendance accounted for one-fifth of the score. SBJ also took into account improvements in or losses of discretionary income for potential fans.
The cities were then indexed against the top scorer: Toledo. Fort Wayne’s indexed score was a 70.22 out of 100.
Despite losing a franchise, Fort Wayne remained one of the top-10 minor league markets.
It’s really a testament to the fans and their support, Nutter said.
Our fans care, and they’re into it.