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A single-A team is selling for $40 million

Jul 2, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

Dayton Dragons

Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal reports that the single-A Dayton Dragons are being sold by current owner Mandalay Baseball to a company called Palisades Arcadia Baseball. That’s not a big deal. Minor league teams sell all the time. What is a big deal is the price: $40 million, which Fisher says is the highest price ever paid for a minor league team.

Now, the Dragons are not your run-of-the-mill minor league teams. As Fisher notes, they have the longest sellout streak in the history of U.S. sports. They set the record in 2011 with their 815th straight sellout. It’s still going strong. In May they sold out their 1,000th straight game. While only a Midwest League team, their ballpark holds over 8,000 fans, which means that they draw more than just about every minor league team at every level. Usually only one or two Triple-A teams do better in overall attendance.

But still: sellouts or not, they are just a single-A team that can only charge single-A prices for tickets, beer and big foam fingers. Making that $40 million price tag pretty darn incredible. To put it in perspective, the Steinbrenner family bought the Yankees for $8.7 million in the early 70s. Current Phillies’ ownership bought that team in 1980 for $30 million. Current Twins ownership bought the team in 1984 for $44 million. Major league franchise prices have gone through the roof, but it wasn’t too terribly long ago when the price the Dragons’ current owners are getting was what you might expect to pay for a big league club.

But, for as interesting as this news is, let’s not allow it to make us lose sight of a couple of immutable facts: (1) Baseball is Dying, You Guys; and (2) Minor League Sports aren’t Very Successful.

  1. renaado - Jul 2, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    “40 million dollars.”

    I’m not really much into the business thing but this is a ripoff price. A single A team worth that kind of money is unbelievable, sellout games or not.

    • sportsdrenched - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      Or it could be the emergence of a wave of increased values for minor league teams.

      Everyone always says the new eye popping price is a ripoff/bargian, and then a few years the perspective changes.

      Except long term deals to aging sluggers. I would imagine we’ll those prices come back down as the results haven’t been all that pretty.

      • renaado - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        Dunno… Seems double-edged for me though.

        I just hope this deal doesn’t bite them in the long run.

  2. huskerguy - Jul 2, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    One of the best baseball venues in the country. I am ecstatic I get to go to a few games a year.

  3. justinreds - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    As a Dayton native, I think its important to point out that no one thought Dayton could support a single A team and thought they would be gone in 3-5 years. I heard the Athletics are looking for a new stadium……. All kidding aside, I have been to a lot of major league stadiums and this is still my favorite place to see a game.

    • 18thstreet - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      I’m surprised that Dayton is home to a Single-A team and not something higher up. It seems like the right place for the Reds’ AAA franchise, given that the Pirates have claimed Indianapolis and the Indians have Columbus.

      Then again, Louisville isn’t a bad choice, either. What the Reds AA team is doing in Pensacola is a mystery to me.

      • Minoring In Baseball - Jul 3, 2014 at 5:25 AM

        A lot has to do with their location, while they would fit into the International League nicely, they still fit fine with the MWL. The West Michigan Whitecaps and Lansing Lugnuts both have stadiums that hold over 10,000, which is comparable to Triple-A stadiums, and larger than most Double-A venues that I’ve been to, so the stadium doesn’t have that much to do with it.
        Dayton does have a lot going for them, though. Fifth Third Field is a great ballpark to watch a game, they have a great logo that I’m sure sells tons of merchandise, and being affiliated with the Reds just down the road can only help, too.

        http://minoringinbaseball.com/

  4. roserowdie5 - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    Beers sell for major-league prices at every minor league ball game I’ve ever been to.

    • brianincbus - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      You need to come to Fort Myers for a single A Twins affiliate game. Saturday is $10 all you can drink domestic draft beer!

  5. stoutfiles - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    The Dragons are VERY fan-friendly; every half-inning there’s something fun going on to entertain the crowd. Couple that with a nice stadium and it’s a great place to watch a game. You never get bored there.

    It also helps being in Dayton where your only possible competition (Flyers basketball) is not during baseball season.

  6. Bar None - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    If I’m not mistaken, the Dragons own their stadium, which could help inflate the price. You get a team and a stadium.

  7. sisisisisisisi - Jul 2, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    A much better investment than the $2 billion for the Clippers.

  8. jlinatl - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    Acouple points:

    1. If you can afford it, the price doesn’t matter only the ROI.
    2. Dayton is a very good (small) sports city
    3. Although it is a good sign; comparing the sales price of a top 3 attendance team (with stadium) and reading into too much is premature. The Buck aren’t suddenly worth $2 billion because the Clippers sold for that.

  9. baberuthslegs - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Craig,
    You’re overworking the “baseball is dying” thing.
    About once per season would suffice.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      I’ll stop doing it when people stop saying it.

  10. denny65 - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    Craig, I think the Dragons’ affiliation wit the Cincinnati Reds can’t be underestimated in accounting for that incredible run of sell outs.

    Dayton’s proximity to Cincinnati means you have a strong fan base desirous of seeing and supporting anything connected to The Big Red Machine.

    The Dragons might not be as successful if they were a Milwaukee or Minneapolis farm club.

  11. jm91rs - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    I’m wondering what the costs of running a minor league team are. I would think salaries are paid for by the major league club? Stadium upkeep and travel are the only real things I can think of.

  12. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    You do have adjust for inflation – the 1980 Phillies sale was $86 mil today’s dollars, and the ’84 Twinkie’s just over $100 mil.

    That said….$40 mil for Single A??? WOW!

  13. tmc602014 - Jul 2, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    My big foam finger is kinda beat up. How much for a Dayton big foam finger? Is it on Amazon?

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