By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. — Stockton’s four professional sports franchises can celebrate together.
The City of Stockton ranked 10th out of 242 minor league sports markets in a recent study by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal. Stockton ranked first in the economic impact portion of the study. The results thrilled officials from the four teams: Stockton Ports (baseball), Stockton Thunder (hockey), Stockton Lightning (arena football) and California Cougars (indoor soccer).
“This is a testament to the City of Stockton, its fans, and the teams, all of whom have worked hard to get the community involved,” Ports general manager Pat Filippone said.
Over the past three years, Stockton Ballpark and Stockton Arena opened downtown. The ballpark became the new home of the Ports, and the arena welcomed the Thunder, Lightning and Cougars.
“I don’t believe before the arena and the ballpark were built that anyone would have guessed that we could be in the top 10, let alone get such a high economic ranking,” said Dan Chapman, a city councilman and president of the Thunder and Lightning.
Doug Wilhoit, the chief executive officer of the Stockton Chamber of Commerce, said the study indicates that the city’s plan to transform Stockton into a sports town has succeeded.
“It affirms all the hard work and dedication so many people put into bringing these teams here and getting these facilities built,” Wilhoit said.
Several factors played into the rankings, including attendance, tenure of franchises, and new teams and facilities brought into the market. Stockton’s No. 1 economic ranking was based on strong attendance set against a slumping economy and regional competition from big-league teams in Sacramento and the Bay Area. College athletics programs were not included in the study.
“To me, the economic rating is the most important because it has the most impact on the city,” Cougars owner Jim Rachels said. “I think all the teams are providing affordable entertainment.”
Fort Wayne, Ind., topped the overall list, and Stockton was the only California city in the top 10.