By Sarah Favot
LOWELL -- With the anticipation of whether the Riverhawks would clench the Hockey East title this weekend as the backdrop, UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan honored the city's 2010 Statehouse delegation for helping to transfer the Tsongas Center from the city to the university.
One step in what Meehan described as, "long and torturous negotiations" for the transfer, was getting a bill to the governor's desk to authorize the move.
A plaque hanging in the lobby of the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell will commemorate the work of the former state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos and state Reps. Tom Golden, Dave Nangle and Kevin Murphy in getting that bill through both the House and Senate and to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk in 2010.
"We wouldn't have been able to go Division I in sports if it weren't for this building," Meehan said during a brief ceremony before Friday night's game. "We wanted to build a hockey program that would make everyone in our community proud, make everyone in the university proud. Without this building, we wouldn't have been able to do it."
Panagiotakos, former chairman of the Senate's Ways and Means Committee, said the negotiations between Meehan and City Manager Bernie Lynch, which lasted almost two years, was the toughest negotiations he's done.
"All of our hopes have been realized," Panagiotakos said.
"Sometimes in giving something up, you gain," he added later.
Golden acknowledged work of former City Manager John Cox, who was a state representative at the time in 1994, when funding was needed for the arena to be built.
Golden recognized Meehan for "letting everyone know throughout the country that UMass Lowell is a force to be reckoned with not only in education, but in sports."
Meehan also acknowledged the state senator at the time the arena was build, Dan Leahy, father of Councilor John Leahy.
"Who'd have thought that five, 10 or 20 years ago," we would have been here, Nangle said.
UMass Lowell agreed to buy the arena for $1, while the city agreed to pay the remaining debt from construction.
UMass agreed to finance $5 million in improvements to the arena.
In January, the team had a school record crowd of 7,013.
The Tsongas Center was ranked 13th in Venues Today Magazine last year in its capacity category.
Aside from being the home of the Riverhawks, the Tsongas Center hosts concerts, student events, conferences and numerous other events, including a spate of high school graduations in the spring.
It is managed by Global Spectrum.
Lynch said things happen in the city as a result of the partnerships between the city, the university and the state.
"It's a first-class facility as it was always intended to be," he said.