Upgrades and Events Bring New Life to Facility
By Julia Gavin
Since the University acquired the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell in February 2010, they have contributed resources and committed to upgrading the facility to make it a premier venue for sports and entertainment in the region.
"We wanted to expand the center's offerings and our improvements really embody that goal," says Peter Casey, executive director for Venue & Event Enterprises. "When the American Hockey League team the Lowell Devils moved to New York, we had 40 new nights to work with and took advantage of the found time."
The renovated center now hosts concerts, family events, graduations and corporate events as well as River Hawk hockey games and sport tournaments. Such programming has brought thousands of new visitors to the center to enjoy the changes.
The LowellBank Pavilion, a state-of-the-art scoreboard, suites, an energy efficient ice floor and dasher board system -- which will decrease energy costs by $150,000 annually -- a catering kitchen, revamped concessions and a newly completed hockey performance center have breathed new life into the building. The money invested in renovations is paying off as the center is on track to break even operationally this year and profit in the next.
"The Tsongas Center may be 15 years old, but we've made it feel brand new," says Casey. "By holding public events like graduations and blood drives, the Tsongas has become a community asset as well as a University point of pride."
That pride rose higher when the Tsongas Center was named No. 13 in Venues Today Magazine's Mid-Year Top Stops Rankings
in its capacity category (5,001 to 10,000) for 2011-2012. Last year was the first year the Tsongas Center made it into the Top Stops rankings at No. 20. Over its 18 reported events during the evaluation period, the venue saw a combined attendance of 71,144, an increase of more than 25,000 from the same time last year.
“The recognition we have received from Venues Today demonstrates we are on target toward our goals in providing a quality event experience," says Casey. "We are looking forward to continuing to build upon this accomplishment.”
Casey notes that integral to the growth and development of the Tsongas Center are the nearly 60 highly committed sponsors that have significantly contributed to the continued success of the building.
While the center expands scheduling, its hockey focus has certainly not been forgotten. The River Hawks men's ice hockey team, which finished last season in the nation’s top 10 and saw its two largest crowds in program history pack the house on Dec. 2 (6,826) and Feb. 17 (6,706) have greatly contributed to its increased popularity.
Dana Skinner, athletic director for the University, has a long history with the Tsongas Center as he served on the arena commission that oversaw the building's creation in the 90s. Part of its original goal was to house UMass Lowell hockey closer to campus and to increase its competitiveness in Division I and Hockey East.
While he didn't think the University would one day own the building, he's happy with the outcome. It took a lot of work on the part of the chancellor, Skinner and his staff and many community partners and sponsors, but in the end the purchase has been successful.
"We’ve now reached the original goals of becoming more competitive and ensuring that athletics is an essential component of student life, and the Tsongas Center was the centerpiece of the strategy," says Skinner. "The broad array of events and activities at the Tsongas has connected virtually every component of the campus-student activities, athletics, public affairs, alumni relations, and the academic community. Everyone wants to be part of events at the Tsongas."
Casey and Skinner credit the many sponsors who have worked with the University to bring the Tsongas Center to the top of its class.