I happened to notice recently while researching some areas of local sports economic impact, that once again the Wenatchee Wild are among the leaders in attendance in the 24 team North American Hockey League. At the 20-game point of the season, the Wild and Corpus Christi are at the top, each averaging 2,816 fans per home game. Not bad considering only 5 teams are over 2,000. In fact there are 9 franchises that are below 1,000 in average attendance.It’s truly nothing short of amazing. The Wild are literally an outpost in the North American Soccer League. There is no other team within several hundred miles. In fact, their division is comprised of teams from Texas and Kansas, which makes their strong attendance even more incredible. Their geographic isolation basically means they are not drawing fans from other franchise’s fan bases. You’re not going to see 2 rooter’s busses from Amarillo show up in the Town Toyota Center parking lot on a Friday afternoon. Many other teams in the league have natural rivals, meaning their gate is boosted by the opposing team’s fans. Not here. Now, that could all change if and when the Wild were to join a league with some natural built-in rivals, like the British Columbia Hockey League. Easier said than done, but that’s a discussion for another time.It’s not by luck. The Wild staff works tirelessly at promotion. In fact I mentioned the attendance statistic to Don West, the Wild’s Director of Sales & Marketing. His response: “We’ll knock those numbers out of the park” over the next month. Also, the players are very engaged in the community, helping develop an important connection with the fans. Town Toyota Center is an absolute terrific venue. And even if the final score doesn’t always cooperate, spectators are always treated to an exciting brand of hockey. The coaching is top level, many Wild players go on to play at major colleges, while others have been drafted by the NHL, USHL or been selected as World and Major Junior players.If you’ve never been to a Wild game, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Tickets are affordable and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Put yourself in one of them, and chances are you’ll go back for more.Matt Kearny is coordinator of sports tourism for the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at 509-662-2116 or matt@wenatchee.org

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