Peoria ranked among top minor league markets

By WEEK Producer

September 19, 2013 Updated Sep 19, 2013 at 7:43 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- According to Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal Peoria is a hit.

In its annual survey of the country's top minor league markets Peoria is ranked 55th, ahead of larger cities like Omaha, Nebraska, Birmingham, Alabama, and El Paso, Texas.

Bloomington-Normal checks in at number 64, while Toledo, Ohio, is ranked first.

Peoria Chiefs president Rocky Vonachen thinks its quite an endorsement. And a product of the market's stability.

"Minor league baseball has been here for 30 years, hockey has been here for 30 years and we had indoor football at one time," said Vonachen. "I think the longevity (is one reason) and the fan base that we have here that support the teams."

Street & Smith's researchers analyzed 235 markets, 47 leagues and 408 teams before settling on this year's rankings. Their factors include fan base, tenured clubs and the local economy.

There's also an X-factor - the venues teams call home. Dozer Park and the Carver Arena give Peoria two first-class facilities.

"The fact that we've got 9,800 seats for hockey in a town this size is fairly amazing," said Peoria Civic Center general manager Jim Wtherington. "That's what Grand Rapids has with many more people. That's what the Quad Cities has with quite a few more people in town."

And its not just the fans who benefit. Rivermen coach Jean Guy Trudel has played hockey all over the world and says Carver Arena ranks high on his list.

"As a player you have absolutely everything you need from the hot tubs to the cold tubs to the gym. Everything you need is here so it's a great facility," Trudel said.

Maybe with another championship or two Peoria will be ranked even higher in the future.