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Big Names, Big Crowds at Tsongas Center

UMass Lowell Calls First Year of Owning Venue a Success

Drake, wearing a UMass Lowell sweatshirt, performs in his sold-out show at the Tsongas Center in October 2010.

By Christine Gillette

Drake. Bob Dylan. Jeff Dunham. Godsmack. 

Those are just some of the big names that took to the stage at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell in 2010 and with more lined up in 2011, including rap legend Snoop Dogg on Friday, Jan. 28. 

More than 80,000 people have passed through the Tsongas Center’s turnstiles since October, when UMass Lowell unveiled its latest and most extensive renovations to the building, both inside and out.  

“The response we saw from the community in 2010 shows that they are happy with the many changes we have made at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell and we expect 2011 will be an even bigger year,” says Peter Casey, UMass Lowell’s director for athletics business enterprises. 

“We’ve been overwhelmingly pleased by the number of people who have come to events that we’ve had so far at the Tsongas Center. When the public comes in here, they are blown away. Once we get people in, they’re hooked,” says Jennifer Kelly, general manager. 

Driving the center’s growing popularity is the increased and more diverse event offerings as well as the many physical improvements made to the $28 million venue since it was acquired debt-free by the University last February. Those include:

  • A video scoreboard and LED “ribbon” boards; 
  • Spectacular club and premium seating in the Lowell Cooperative Bank Pavilion; 
  • The new Talon Club and University Suite rooms; 
  • Sixty-speaker sound system; 
  • All-new concessions from Aramark that focus on freshness and include local favorites like Sal’s Pizza and Lowell Beer Works; 
  • Logos, signs and other visual enhancements inside and outside the building; 
  • Interactive tributes to outstanding former UMass Lowell athletes; 
  • A permanent exhibit honoring the late U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas. 
In addition, a new management company, Global Spectrum, has been hired to run the building and has made its own changes, including hiring a new cleaning company to keep the building spotless and initiated a customer service program for employees.

Not Just for Hockey Fan s

The tradition of River Hawk ice hockey continues at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell – the university is ranked No. 17 nationally in hockey attendance, ahead of programs including Yale, Northeastern, Merrimack, Providence and UConn. 

And the venue has become home to so much more in the last year, from concerts by national acts and multi-artist events like the KISS 108 “Jingle Ball,” family programs like “Disney Live!” and all-ages events like “Riverdance on Ice,” as well as job fairs, community programs and functions of all sizes. The recent “Wicked Irish Thunder” event held in tribute to the release of “The Fighter” even drew the film’s stars, including Christian Bale, to the Tsongas.

Kelly says event organizers and concert promoters have very positive things to say about the revitalized Tsongas Center. “When a promoter comes here, their event sells tickets. That in turn brings promoters back again and again. Area residents really support the building that just creates more success.” 

While Kelly says many more events are in the works, with several to be announced in the coming weeks, highlights of the 2011 schedule already include:

  • Avenged Sevenfold concert on Saturday, Jan. 22, which has already sold out; 
  • Snoop Dogg concert on Friday, Jan. 28, for which tickets are still available;
  • Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Tournament, Friday, March 4 through Monday, March 7; 
  • Dropkick Murphys concert on Saturday, March 19; 
  • Monster Truck Nationals on Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23; 
  • Massachusetts State Democratic Convention, Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4.
Kelly says the center’s staff is also working to develop new events and other programs to allow the venue to be used in different ways.

The Tsongas Center is offering organizers of longstanding community events the opportunity to grow and modernize. The George Bossi Lowell Holiday Wrestling Tournament was held at the Tsongas the first time in the contest’s 43 years and the Colonial Classic synchronized figure skating competition, which has long called the Tsongas home, was able to enhance fans’ experience this year by using the video scoreboard and other technology UMass Lowell brought to the building. 

Two Massachusetts cheerleading competitions and the Bay State Marathon have used the Tsongas Center in recent months, and the venue will be the site of the Lowell Spinners’ annual Hot Stove Dinner for the first time, allowing the team to expand the number of available seats and more flexibility to offer autographs with former Spinners (Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz headlines the event), as well as a silent auction and raffles. 

Other new events for the community introduced at the Tsongas include the first-ever Holiday Hoop Slam, which showcased Lowell and Andover high schools’ basketball teams in competition, along with UMass Lowell’s men’s and women’s basketball teams taking on counterparts from Merrimack College. 

For tickets and more information on upcoming events at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, check out