Ask any sports enthusiast in North Carolina, and you will be told the Tar Heel State is easily one of the best for all things sports — from preps to college to professional, as well as indoors and out.
A recent study by WalletHub confirmed what most North Carolinans already knew.
Leading the way in the study was Chapel Hill, which came in at No. 3 in the Best Small Cities for Sports Fans category, just behind East Lansing, Mi., and Stanford, Conn.
The study was sparked, in part, by the fact that the North American sports industry rakes in upwards of $60 billion from ticket and merchandise sales, media rights and sponsorship fees. In addition, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that figure to rise another $10 billion a year by 2018.
“The increasingly mobile-oriented ways we consume sports and rising premium-seat demand are partly responsible for the significant industry growth,” wrote Richie Bernardo, the author of the WalletHub study. “Today, we can digest the latest sports happenings through our smartphones and ditch the bleachers for ultra hi-def TVs that seem to get bigger every year.
“But many serious fans still prefer live action — and the best seats in the house. In response, sports venues are improving their facilities to enhance the in-person viewing experience.”
North Carolina fared reasonably well in several other categories of the study, as well.
In the overall rankings of all cities, North Carolina had 14 cities in the study’s top 273 cities. That list was topped by Chapel Hill at No. 15. If there was a surprise, it was that Boone came in next at No. 35 — ahead of No. 49 Charlotte, No. 59 Raleigh and No. 87 Durham. The other nine North Carolina cities were: Greenville at No. 104, Winston-Salem at No. 120, Elon at No. 143, Cullowhee at No. 144, Davidson at No. 150, Buies Creek at No. 154, Boiling Springs at No. 157, Greensboro at No. 217, Wilmington at No. 231, Asheville at No. 265 and High Point at No. 273.
The study also ranked cities by sport. The No. 1s were: Hockey, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Baseball, St. Louis, Mo.; Basketball, Storrs, Ct. (Chapel Hill is No. 2); Soccer, Salt Lake City, Utah; Football, Green Bay, Wisc.
Breaking down the cities by size, Boston was the top large city (Charlotte is No. 25 and Raleigh No. 28); Ann Arbor, Mi., was the top midsize city (Durham is No. 19, Greensboro No. 45, Wilmington No. 50 and High Point No. 64); East Lansing, Mi., took top honors in the small city division (behind Chapel Hill at No. 3 was Boone at No. 11; Greenville at No. 45, Elon at No. 65, Cullowhee at No. 66, Davidson at No. 72, Buies Creek at No. 74, Boiling Springs at No. 76 and Asheville at No. 151).
“To say that Americans love sports is an understatement,” said Bernardo. “It’s in our blood. We value sports as much for their personal and social benefits as for the thrill and drama of the game.”
— W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.