Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Mohegan Sun Palmer can do for sports and entertainment in the Pioneer Valley

By Zachary Baru

With four developers competing for one license to build a resort casino in Western Massachusetts, the stakes are certainly high.  While the Massachusetts Gaming Commission continues the process to award the sole regional license, the Western Mass. sports and entertainment industry anxiously awaits the early 2014 announcement.  

A resort casino in the area will not exactly hurt sports franchises and venues in the Pioneer Valley, it can easily team-up with the industry to create new partnerships, and more likely than not attract a larger clientele to market to.  Any attraction that brings additional people to the region can benefit local franchises and venues in a positive way.  The opportunity would be simple: bring in more people to the region, fill more events, and pump more money into the local economy.  Sounds halfway decent, but can it work?

Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut has spent over a decade of bringing the most popular touring acts to it's 9,323-seat arena.  In addition, Mohegan Sun Arena has won multiple awards for its unique, modern and intimate concert setting, including being ranked 3rd in the U.S. by Billboard Magazine.

Should this proposal be granted the Western Mass. license, this is far from a threat to sports and entertainment in the region, but rather a way of creating an entertainment buzz in the area.  There would be no competition for sports at the MassMutual Center, and this proposal could help an already strong relationship between Mohegan Sun and the Basketball Hall of Fame.  

The two organizations are partners for events such as the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena, held in November.  Recently, Mohegan Sun Palmer has announced a Basketball Hall of Fame retail store would be part of the proposed resort casino.

Should Mohegan Sun be granted the resort casino license, is sports and entertainment guaranteed to flourish in the Pioneer Valley?  Not guaranteed, but Palmer would have the potential to become a catalyst for an increase in Western Mass. entertainment.  This could create a ripple effect on the entire region, which could possibly see a smaller example of the sports and entertainment success Mohegan Sun has had for over a decade.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru, and reached at

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pompea annouces Springfield Falcons Charitable Foundation at press conference

By Zachary Baru

Charlie Pompea, owner of the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League, announced the formation of the Springfield Falcons Charitable Foundation during a press conference at the MassMutual Center before Sunday's game against the Portland Pirates.

Pompea announced the foundation to media and fans, but also to discuss the state the franchise.  The foundation adds to an already impressive resume of charitable work from the Springfield Falcons, who have focused on giving back to their community ever since the franchises' inception in 1994.

At the press conference, Pompea presented a check to Sarah Pompea, president of the new Springfield Falcons Charitable Foundation.  Pompea also discussed the Falcons' past and future charitable efforts.

Inevitably, the current state of the franchise had to be brought up.  Pompea mentioned that the Falcons need more support from the region.  Pompea talked about the Falcons on-ice success this seeason, but added that the franchise is near the bottom in attendance.

The Falcons are currently in first place in the AHL's Northeast Divison, and are tied for first in the Eastern Conference.  As great as their on-ice performance is, the same cannot be said off-ice, as they currently are 27th out of 30 teams.  The Falcons current average attendance through 22 home games is 3,815, while the league average is 5,591.  Pompea stated that he was approached by a potential buyer of the franchise, but explained that forming the new foundation expresses his commitment to keeping the franchise in Springfield.

The Pioneer Valley is fortunate to have people like Pompea and president and general manager Bruce Landon who are passionate about the history of hockey in this region, and who would like to see this franchise continue to provide competitive hockey to fans in Springfield.  This region should also be proud to say that the National Hockey League's top development league plays right here in Springfield, and that this is arguably the second-best hockey league in the world.  What will it take for more fans to understand how fortunate they are to have such a competitive league right in their own backyard?

Pompea, Landon and the Falcons front office cannot keep this franchise in town all by themselves, they need the region to show some support.   No one wants support to come from a plead, but there comes a point when reality sets in.  This franchise has been trying hard for years to stay in this city, it is time we as the community do our part.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at