Do independent teams have the local support to continue their existence?
Do they have sufficient sponsorship to maintain a promotional presence?
Do they have sufficient political backing to maintain quality facilities?
Do the surrounding communities actually care about the teams? Is there enough civic pride in these teams?
Follow the money trail and find the answer. Because when the local paper doesn't even cover your team with more than a cursory glance, it's time to think about jumping ship.
If player contracts aren't being purchased by affiliated clubs on a regular basis, then these teams mare suffering. When Atlantic League teams trade players, are they doing so for the benefit of their team, or for the future financial prospect of selling out to MiLB?
All the attempted new leagues end up stillborn, there's certainly leagues whose gravestones are familiar...
...and what we're seeing spring up is the collegiate wood bat summer leagues. We'll see how many of those end up dead in 5 years, but it certainly bypasses the issue of, say, paying kids to play, no?
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There are a couple of teams that don't look so great, averaging right around 1,000 (Grand Prairie's attendance is way down and the team is not very good on the field). On the other side, St. Paul just opened a new stadium and attendance is up and the team is on fire.
I don't see the AA going away anytime soon, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is some contraction. For the most part, the teams in the AA get decent media coverage in their markets.
We also have two summer college wood bat leagues in our area. One is fairly high budget (Jayhawk League), the other is low budget (Kansas Collegiate League, formerly the Walter Johnson League). Both leagues have lengthy histories. Both leagues did very well in the post-season.
We also have the National Baseball Congress (which both leagues are members of), which hosts a two-week, 30-team tournament which just wrapped up. Attendance was up at the NBC this season (despite the death of a bat boy from injuries suffered in a game). The NBC is struggling with keeping some of the member leagues sending entries (no Alaska League teams this year because of budgetary constraints) even though it changed its format to encourage more distant leagues (a 16-team first-week bracket, followed by a 14-team second-week bracket. Two teams from the first week advance to the second week. The format was done that way so teams don't have to book hotel rooms for two weeks).
While the NBC has challenges, again I don't see it going away anytime soon (it's 81 years old). It has decent sponsor support. It has a new organizational structure. The tournament is owned by the city of Wichita (after being owned by the Rich family for several decades). It was operated by the local minor league team, but it is now operated by a new civic committee (the AA team's books jumbled the income and expenses of the tourney with its own, which torked off the city).