The Toledo Mud Hens are crediting fans and supporters for making the 2013 baseball season a success on many fronts, even though the team did not fare so well in International League standings.
This season, Fifth Third Field welcomed 560,080 people to the ballpark, a number the franchise hasn’t seen since 2008, and it has attracted a total of 5,576,977 people in the 12 seasons the Mud Hens have played in downtown Toledo.
The ballpark hosted 1,969 group outings — totaling 143,718 fans in 2013 — breaking the record of 143,226 which was set in 2007. A group is defined as any party of 25 or more people.
More than 560,000 fans turned out to watch the Toledo
Mud Hens battle their opponents at Fifth Third Field this
year, and to enjoy treats such as the Fanatic Freeze
sundae, which was voted the best concession food in
Minor League Baseball. (Press file photo by Scott Grau)
Several other records were set this season.
Fans rented a total of 267 party suites, a 15 percent increase over our previous peak year in 2012.
A Cut Above, the official catering group of Fifth Third Field, hosted 916 parties (for 57,499 meals).
This year, 26,083 students attended one of three School Celebration Days. They represented 248 schools from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
This season the Mud Hens had more kids (9,486) from youth sports teams line up along the baseline to be recognized. These young athletes play Little League baseball and softball, soccer, football and hockey; there was also a junior roller derby team.
This season also saw the Mud Hens’ Fanatic Freeze sundae get voted the best concession food in Minor League Baseball. And, for the first time in our history, Sports Business Journal named Toledo the ‘Number One Minor League Market in the Country’.
“This has been such a significant year for our franchises,” says Joe Napoli, Toledo Mud Hens and Walleye general manager. “After 12 seasons, our corporate and community partners and enthusiastic fans continue to play a major role in our success. We couldn’t ask for better fans and want to thank the Toledo Region for another great year.”
Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal (SBJ) has named Toledo the Top Minor League Market in the country for 2013.
This is the first time SBJ has picked Toledo as number one, out of the 235 communities nationwide, in its biennial Top Minor League list since its inception in 2005. Toledo was ninth in SBJ’s first survey, then fell to No. 77 in the 2007 study, but rose back up to number 18 in 2009, rose again to 13 in 2011, and this year the top spot!
According to SBJ the ranking is determined by fan base, tenured clubs and the economy. This year, researchers analyzed 235 markets, 47 leagues, 408 teams, 249.8 million in total minor league attendance, and 2.64 billion in construction at 50 new or extensively renovated venues.
“This project measures what market best supports its minor league teams through thick and thin,” said SportsBusiness Journal research director David Broughton, who has spearheaded this study since creating it in 2005. “Toledo has lost jobs and residents, and championships on the field have been few and far between. Despite these challenges, or maybe because of them, fans of the Mud Hens and Walleye have set the standard for team support.”
The market’s number-one ranking validates the team’s significant investment in market research and staff training,” Napoli said. “Community support for the two teams has never been higher. Fans come to both Fifth Third Field and the Huntington Center with family, friends and business associates knowing it’s a good value and an exciting experience.”
Toledo’s roots for professional sports run deep. Baseball dates back to 1883 when the first professional team played at League Park. The team went by other names until 1896 when it became the Mud Hens. Through the years, it moved through several sites including Swayne Field and Ned Skeldon Stadium before coming to downtown in 2002.
Professional hockey began in 1947 when the Toledo Mercury’s became the first IHL franchise to be granted outside the Windsor-Detroit area. The Toledo Walleye formed in 2009.
The Mud Hens are the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The Walleye are the ECHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings.
For more information about Toledo’s sports teams, visit www.mudhens.com and www.toledowalleye.com. The 2013-14 season home opener for the Toledo Walleye is Oct. 26 against the Wheeling Nailers. Single game tickets and game plans are on sale now at the website or by calling 419-725-WALL.