UMass Lowell, City Finalize Acquisition of Tsongas Arena

02/05/2010
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

University Unveils New Name, Look, Mission at $24 Million Facility

LOWELL, Mass. ߝ The Tsongas Arena is officially part of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

The acquisition from the city of Lowell was approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick earlier this week and finalized today by the university and city.

The arena is now known as the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. The name retains historical significance and highlights the new focus on promoting the $24 million facility as a top-notch venue for entertainment, sports and other events for UMass Lowell students and the community as a whole.

“This is just one example of how UMass Lowell is enhancing campus life for our students, who are increasingly choosing university housing for the optimum living and learning experience,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan. “UMass Lowell is improving the facility and plans to bring top entertainment, athletic and other events here to benefit not only our students but the entire region.”

The Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell will host River Hawk ice hockey and a variety of other sports, including the American Hockey League Devils, as well as concerts, family shows and other performances, special events, conventions, private functions, community activities and school events, such as the university’s annual Commencement and Open House.

UMass Lowell announced its first major booking today for the Tsongas Center: a national music tour led by hip hop star and 2010 Grammy nominee Drake, who performed with Eminem and Lil Wayne on Monday night’s Grammy Awards telecast. Drake will headline the tour, which comes to the Tsongas on Thursday, April 29. Watch for more on this show and other upcoming events on the new Web site, www.uml.edu/tsongascenter.

Already, the university has made many visible improvements at the Tsongas Center, including installing 400-foot, electronic “ribbons,” or fascia boards to display cheers, messages and sponsor ads. Colorful banners and signs with the new logo and photos are inside and outside. A new video scoreboard, improved sound system and exterior marquee will be installed in the months to come.

“Watching hockey live is exciting, but the improvements are creating a whole new experience for fans,” said Peter Casey, UMass Lowell’s director of athletic business operations.

An interactive exhibit paying tribute to the late U.S. Sen. Paul E. Tsongas, for whom the building is named, will be added as progress is made on $5 million in capital improvements financed through the UMass Building Authority.

“I remember the arena opening in 1998 as the culmination of Paul’s years of advocating for a sporting and entertainment venue in our city,” said U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas. “I am pleased to see that the new name and logo honor that legacy and that UMass Lowell is bringing a new vitality to the facility.”

“The team at UMass Lowell has the vision and commitment necessary to ensure that this venue meets the needs of students as well as the entire community. The UMass Building Authority looks forward to working with Chancellor Meehan to make that vision a reality,” said David MacKenzie, the authority’s executive director.

The center’s exciting new direction as a premier venue for sports and entertainment is captured in the new name and logo developed with the assistance of a series of focus groups by New York-based SME, a nationally known sports marketing firm that has worked with the Kentucky Derby, Madison Square Garden, the Boston Bruins and Dolphin Stadium.

The acquisition was announced Oct. 30 by Meehan, Panagiotakos and City Manager Bernie Lynch, with UMass President Jack Wilson and the Lowell legislative delegation at a River Hawks hockey game.

“The city of Lowell has entered the next phase of its partnership with UMass Lowell in the Northern Canal area. We welcome the changes the university is already bringing to Lowell’s largest concert, sports and entertainment venue,” said Lynch.

“It was a deal that worked for both sides. The taxpayers of Lowell save a million dollars a year and UMass Lowell gets a first-class arena,” said state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos of Lowell.

Both the city and university will benefit from the agreement. UMass Lowell will receive:

  • The $24 million, 6,500-seat arena, debt-free;
  • The 3-acre parcel adjacent to the arena, to be developed as a commercial property that complements the arena;
  • The surrounding park and grounds for a broad range of campus activities;
  • Year-round use of the arena for events;
  • Increased opportunities to generate new revenue;
  • Easier and more cost-effective use of the facility.
  •  
  • The city of Lowell will receive:
  • $800,000;
  • No further responsibility for running the arena and covering its costs, which have been up to $1.3 million a year;
  • The opportunity to conduct five annual events;
  • Ice time for public use at cost;
  • A university-owned parcel of land on Pawtucket Boulevard.

As the new owner, UMass Lowell will build a successful business model for the venue. Prior to the agreement, examples of similarly sized, university-owned arenas that operate at no net cost to their institution were identified. UMass Lowell is now no longer the only school in Division I Hockey East without its own arena.

“UMass Lowell should own an arena, as do other Hockey East schools, and the time is right to give the university the opportunity to run it as a full-scale entertainment center,” said state Rep. Thomas Golden of Lowell.

“Quality universities own quality arenas for sporting events. Adding the Tsongas Arena to its portfolio furthers the status of UMass Lowell,” said state Rep. Kevin Murphy.

“This win-win situation will help Lowell residents and allow for the necessary repairs and improvements to the Tsongas Center. I am confident that under the leadership of Chancellor Meehan, the arena will continue to be one of the best facilities in New England,” said state Rep. David Nangle.

“Having a place to call ‘our home’ is amazing and will have a great impact on our program,” said Blaise MacDonald, head coach of the UMass Lowell River Hawks hockey team. “We are grateful for all the hard work that went into making this a reality.”

The university celebrated the new venue at a grand re-opening on Friday, Feb. 5, just before the nationally ranked UMass Lowell Division I River Hawks hockey team faced off against the NCAA national champion Boston University Terriers.

Opened in January 1998, the construction of the facility ߝ recently assessed at $24 millionߞ; was funded by $20 million from the state and $4 million each from UMass Lowell and the city.

Watch the announcement made by UMass Lowell Chancellor, Marty Meehan.

Watch other speakers at the Tsongas Center announcement:
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas
Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch
State Sen. Steve Panagiotakos

State Rep. Tom Golden
State Rep. Kevin Murphy
State Rep. Dave Nangle
Hockey Coach Blaise MacDonald
Lowell Mayor Jim Milinazzo
Student Sen. Mike Mizzoni
Watch more at our YouTube page

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 13,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.