It’s clear that the big leagues are where all the money is when it comes to baseball. Major League Baseball teams have been earning massive amounts of revenue over the years. For instance, the Houston Astros were estimated to bring in almost $200 million in income during the 2013 season in spite of the team’s poor performance on the field.
On the higher end of the league, certain teams boast of total values in the billions of dollars. For example, the New York Yankees are worth $2.3 billion while the Los Angeles Dodgers come in second place at $1.6 billion. The current World Series Champion Boston Red Sox come in third place with a value of just over $1.3 billon.
Of course, these teams all lean heavily on their minor league affiliates to supply players when times get rough and injuries strike. Minor league teams are also there to build the skills of players who want to reach the big time. While it’s true that these teams are nowhere near as valuable as their big league counterparts, they can still generate plenty of money.
These teams earn revenue through many strategies like selling their tickets at affordable rates, offering a number of unique and amusing game day promotions and giveaways, having some exciting activities during the game and promoting some of the MLB’s future stars that people can catch before they explode into the major leagues.
The need for these teams to have high revenues is important so they can keep operating efficiently and help their major league clubs. After all, every player needs his start in the minors. Robinson Cano is rumoured to be asking for $30 million a year but he didn’t just get to the Yankees negotiation table right away. He spent time with the Trenton Thunder and Staten Island Yankees before making it to the big show.
This listing of the ten highest-earning teams in minor league baseball for 2013 shows that there are many teams who are successful from a financial standpoint because they do more than just draw well. They also know how to run teams, take advantage of their markets and capitalize on their major league affiliations. Many of them also have silly names which helps too.
10. Toledo Mud Hens – 2013 Revenue: $8.9 Million
The Toledo Mud Hens – the Detroit Tigers’ AAA team – have to pay $14 million over twenty-five years to Lucas County, Ohio to play their games in the area. Fortunately for the Hens, the $8.9 million annual revenue for the team does enough to cover the entire cost of playing there. Fifth Third Bank also paid about a third (go figure) of the $14 million to get the team’s ballpark naming rights for the lease.
9. Frisco Roughriders – 2013 Revenue: $9.2 Million
The Frisco Roughriders are the Texas Rangers’ AA club. The team made $9.2 million in revenue this past year. Frisco’s proximity to both the growing Denton and Collin Counties helped the town of Frisco expand by 80,000 people in the past decade according to Census reports. The design of the team’s Dr. Pepper Ballpark has made the team famous too for its innovative design which includes seating that surrounds both bullpens. This park cost only $22 million to build when it opened in 2003.
8. Salt Lake Bees – 2013 Revenue: $9.3 Million
Gail Miller, the widow of former Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller, owns the Salt Lake Bees and has helped the team become a profitable minor league franchise. The Bees earned $9.3 million in revenue this year. Part of this is thanks to the $200,000 that the Bees get from Spring Mobile, a local AT&T retailer, to have their stadium named after the company. In fact, the Bees have been getting revenue from stadium naming rights for years, having gotten $100,000 a year from Frankin Covey in the past.
7. Dayton Dragons – 2013 Revenue: $9.5 Million
The Dayton Dragons are a Class A team under the Cincinnati Reds’ watchful eye. What helped the team earn $9.5 million in 2013 was the consistent attendance for games at Fifth Third Field. The stadium, which fits around 8,300 fans when the lawn area is included, has sold out more than 900 straight games. The streak is still going to this very day as the Dragons consistently get at least half a million tickets sold each year.
6. Memphis Redbirds – 2013 Revenue: $9.5 Million
The Memphis Redbirds’ success is very unique. As the St. Louis Cardinals’ AAA team, the Redbirds are owned by a non-profit organization. The team was taken over by the group after the old owner failed to pay $3.2 million for stadium bonds. But while the team is earning $9.5 million in revenue each year, there are concerns over whether the public will approve stadium bonds for Autozone Park, a ballpark that cost $80 million to build in the first place.
5. Indianapolis Indians – 2013 Revenue: $10 Million
Contrary to most educated guesses, The Indianapolis Indians are not affiliated with the MLB’s Cleveland team of the same name – although they had been from 1952-56. Actually, the Indianapolis Indians are the Pittsburgh Pirates’ AAA club. The Indians name has been around since 1902, making them second-oldest minor league baseball franchise in America, behind only the Rochester Red Wings. Part of the $10 million revenue the Indians make each year comes from the massive sponsorship support the team gets. The club gets $2 million a year from many advertisers around the city. This is in spite of the team’s stadium, Victory Field not having its name sold to the highest bidder.
4. Columbus Clippers – 2013 Revenue: $10 Million
The Columbus Clippers have operated as the Cleveland Indians’ AAA club in recent years although the team has been around for more than a century. When Franklin County, Ohio bought the team in 1977, it was worth $25,000. Today the Clippers are earning $10 million a year and are worth around $32 million. Franklin County still owns the team today and has no plans to sell it off to another investor.
3. Lehigh Valley IronPigs – 2013 Revenue: $10 Million
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs play in Allentown, a city not far to the west of Philadelphia. As the Phillies’ AAA club, the IronPigs have become a hit in the city. In fact, the team’s impressive $10 million revenue in 2013 has been consistent over the last few years. This is big seeing as how it cost $50 million to build the team’s Coca-Cola Park and because it originally cost $14 million to buy the club when they were known as the struggling Ottawa Lynx.
2. Round Rock Express – 2013 Revenue: $12 Million
The Round Rock Express is the Texas Rangers’ AAA club and has grown particularly popular thanks to the increasing size of the Austin-Round Rock market. Austin is the largest market in the country with no major league sports team, so fans have been flocking to watch Express games. Much of the revenue from the team has been spent on the Dell Diamond, a stadium that cost $25 million to build.
1. Sacramento River Cats – 2013 Revenue: $14 Million
The Sacramento River Cats have a value of $38 million and earned $14 million in revenue in 2013. Much of this came from the team’s close AAA affiliation with the Oakland Athletics, but the team’s success on the field has helped too. The Cats have won 17 division titles in the Pacific Coast League sine 1985. They’re also getting $750,000 a year from Raley Supermarkets for the naming rights to their stadium.
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