Monday, March 11, 2013

MAAC Basketball Championships: Championship games conclude weekend of basketball in Springfield

By Zachary Baru

SPRINGFIELD - Well it may not have been anything close to Madison Square Garden, but on Monday Manhattan College students invaded the MassMutual Center at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championships in Springfield, Massachusetts.  The large group of fans were not enough for the Jaspers, as Iona went on to win 60-57, claiming the MAAC men's championship before 1,493 fans.

The day began at noon with Marist topping Iona 72-48 in the women's championship game in front of 1,187.  Of all of the ten participating schools in the tournament, Marist and Manhattan were the winners in fan support, as the two schools sent groups of students up to Springfield throughout the weekend-long tournament.

Both championship games Monday received live national broadcasts, with the women's game on ESPNU and the men's game later in the evening on ESPN2.  This brought the tournament's total to ten televised games on the ESPN family of networks, with the remaining 7 on ESPN3.  The exposure certainly helps the MAAC conference, but also gives Springfield and the MassMutual Center media attention at nationwide levels.

Although the majority of the fans were those of member schools who had made the trip up Interstate 91, the crowd was rowdy and injected a great deal of energy into the MassMutual Center.  Both schools had a little over a two-hour drive from their campus locations in New Rochelle, New York and the Bronx, which are just fifteen minutes apart.

For a second straight year, Springfield proved to be an ideal host for the tournament, nicely accommodating the five-day event along with all of its media attention in the somewhat-intimate MassMutual Center.  Between hotels and restaurants providing hospitality to teams and fans, and the arena hosting different community events during the weekend in the convention center, the city and venue paired-up well to host a second MAAC Basketball Championships.

The benefits will reach far beyond the MassMutual Center, as the local economy of the Pioneer Valley experienced a great deal of economic impact, making the entire region a winner in this year's tournament.

Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston.  He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Penn National wants Tip-Off Classic to return

By Zachary Baru

Monday at CityStage both resort casino developers in Springfield presented further details of their proposals for obtaining the sole Western Massachusetts license, which is expected to be given in early 2014.  This afternoon's presentations focused on traffic, parking and entertainment, and included an interesting point made by Penn National Gaming, who is proposing a resort casino in the city's North End on the site of Peter Pan Bus Lines and The Republican.

During the topic of entertainment, Penn National stated that they would like to attract the Tip-Off Classic back to Springfield, which currently exists only in the form of a tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.  The Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic was played between 1979 and 2005 at the Springfield Civic Center/MassMutual Center, which attracted top college basketball teams and nationally televised broadcasts.  

In the event that the game was brought back to Springfield, it would resurrect a tradition in Springfield that at one point was more than just a basketball game, but an entire community event.  The game formerly was kicked-off by the Tip-Off Parade, and opened the nation's college basketball season with the very first game of the year.

MGM Restorts International also had much to say about entertainment at today's presentations.  MGM spoke about their rich history of bringing some of the biggest names in entertainment to their venues, including popular concerts and sporting events.  They explained the importance of entertainment to their proposal, which is located within walking distance of the MassMutual Center.

Turnout at CityStage was decent, with good questions being asked by community leaders regarding traffic, parking and entertainment.

Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston.  He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Sunday, March 10, 2013

MAAC Basketball Championships: MassMutual Center proves to be fine host

By Zachary Baru

SPRINGFIELD - Sports fans in Western Massachusetts may take the MassMutual Center for granted, but as fans who made the trip to Springfield this weekend found out, the arena and the city prove to be perfect hosts for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championships.

Attendance for Sunday's men's semifinals was 2,421.  Many of the fans had traveled from member schools, and they expect a fine venue and a neutral location for the tournament.

With ten men's and ten women's teams making Springfield their home for the weekend, the city provides excellent hospitality for the teams and fans throughout the tournament.  From the vast selection of nearby hotels and restaurants, the MassMutual Center becomes a very accommodating venue for a tournament of this size.

The venue becomes an even better host when the use of the connected convention center is factored in, allowing the MassMutual Center to host games and community events back-to-back, within the same facility.  The MGM Springfield FanFest has been entertaining younger fans all weekend, within a few hundred yards from the arena floor in the Exhibition Hall.

Earlier on Sunday, the tournament and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame held a one-mile "Bounce to the Arena" from the Hall of Fame to the MassMutual Center, ending at the Exhibition Hall's FanFest.  A tournament needs a suitable venue for hosting events such as this, and the MassMutual Center and the city of Springfield have partnered together to put on a fine weekend of basketball.

Aside from the events that go along with the tournament, Springfield's location in the region offers as close to a "neutral site" as there can be.  With the closest schools being Fairfield and Siena, the 6,663-seat MassMutual Center (excluding floor seating for basketball) is both fair for the fans, and a the right size for a conference tournament.

Accommodating a strong media presence throughout the weekend, along with nationally televised games on ESPN2 and ESPNU scheduled for Monday, the MassMutual Center shows why it makes the right choice as host of the MAAC Basketball Championships.

Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston.  He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Saturday, March 9, 2013

MAAC Basketball Championships: Day 3 brings expanded media coverage

By Zachary Baru

SPRINGFIELD - For anyone with an interpretation that the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference does not attract a wide amount of interest, Saturday at the MassMutual Center would prove that opinion wrong.  While once again the majority of fans in the arena were those of the member schools, not from Western Massachusetts, the media coverage picked up in day 3 of the weekend-long tournament.

Saturday included two women's semifinals and four men's quarterfinals, all of which were broadcasted nationally on ESPN3.  ESPN3 is available on or on the WatchESPN app.  Attendance for Saturday was not released, but crowds were similar to those on Friday which relied heavily on fans traveling from member schools.  Friday night's attendance was 2,038.

National broadcast coverage will continue with all remaining games being televised on the ESPN family of networks.  The two men's semifinal games tomorrow will be broadcasted by ESPN3, along with the women's final on ESPNU on Monday.   ESPN2 will cover the men's championship game Monday night at 9.

All of this national television exposure is beneficial for growing the popularity of both the tournament and the league itself, as all eyes in the basketball world are now centered on who will make it to the NCAA tourney.

This is where Springfield comes in.  As the host city, this will be one of Springfield's few opportunities all year to be on national television - the others being the Hall of Fame Induction and the Spalding HoopHall Classic.  There has been a good amount of media members occupying the press tables all weekend long, helping to maximize the exposure of this tournament.  All of which aids Springfield, as it is just another benefit of hosting the MAAC Basketball Championships.

Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston.  He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

MAAC Basketball Championships: MGM Springfield provides family entertainment at FanFest

By Zachary Baru

SPRINGFIELD - While the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championships are in full swing with teams battling for a berth in the NCAA tournament, there is a much smaller game going on within the MassMutual Center at the MGM Springfield FanFest.  About two hundred yards away in the Exhibition Hall, the evening's lesser-known event is underway at the FanFest, the much anticipated "Mascot Game".

Okay, maybe most adults are more excited for Monday's championship games.  But for any children who are attending the weekend-long tournament, the choice of which game to attend on a Saturday night is simple, with the mascots coming up on top.  This game is just one of many events planned on the auxiliary court inside the Exhibition Hall, as part of the FanFest.

Other events on the auxiliary court include free throw contests, three-point contests and every kid's favorite - "open court", which is open to the public.  The court is a full court set-up, which is a former floor from the Glen Falls Civic Center in Glen Falls, New York, along with two baskets.  In other words, paradise for kids who are not necessarily focused on the two college teams playing in the arena.

As if the auxiliary court is not enough excitement for the kids, the FanFest includes many large inflatables for kids to play on.  Booths are also set-up for adults including the tournament's schools and the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The FanFest is a perfect example of how a tournament can use promotions to provide family entertainment, keeping kids engaged and having fun, while not having to walk far from the arena floor.

Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston.  He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Friday, March 8, 2013

MAAC Basketball Championships: Fans making the trip up to Springfield

SPRINGFIELD - As the first rounds of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championships come to an end, it's the member schools who are carrying the weight in attendance. The local fans appear to be absent, something that will most likely change as the weekend progresses.

Thursday's first round women's games opened the tournament with 575 fans. As the women's first round continued, Friday's afternoon games brought in 1,855 fans.

Marist was the clear winner for bringing in a crowd, as their "Red Fox Nation" filled buses headed for the MassMutual Center, igniting the arena for their men's first round game Friday night. The boisterous crowd was primarily responsible for the evening's attendance of 2,038.

What is missing is the crowd from a much closer destination - Springfield. While the member schools are providing a good base for attendance, what is needed are local fans to fill the remaining seats.

As shown by the Marist fans, when a fan-base comes in to support their team, the MassMutual Center can become a somewhat hostile environment.  The question is, can Western Massachusetts fans add to the crowds that the member schools are bringing in?

Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston.  He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

MAAC Basketball Championships: Economic impact of tournament strong for region

By Zachary Baru

SPRINGFIELD - For any tournament, economic impact is a main factor in determining the success an event has on its host city.  At the 2013 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, the impact the tournament has on Springfield becomes immediately evident upon entering the building.

The MassMutual Center may not be packed with fans - or anywhere near capacity for that matter - but during the early rounds, the economic benefits from the teams themselves can clearly be noticed.  Situated around the arena are groups from the ten different teams represented in the weekend-long tournament.  And while a team of basketball players may not be a significant impact on an economy, when combined with coaches, trainers, staff, parents and fans from the ten different schools, including both men's and women's teams, the economic affect on Springfield starts to emerge.

Fortunately for Springfield, many of these teams and their groups are not camped out inside the arena watching games on a Thursday afternoon.  Instead, there is the potential for them to support local restaurants, stores or any establishment that may attract visitors in the area.  Springfield comes out a winner even before the thousands of fans who will enter through the arena's turnstiles show up.

More than 16,000 fans attended last year's tournament, which greatly aids the region's hotels, restaurants and shopping destinations.  Local hotels have experienced high demand for this weekend, reassuring the city of great benefits that are still yet to come.

There is no doubt that the tournament will need good numbers at the box office, including strong local support, but it is hard to argue that the tournament is a success for the region regardless of any final attendance numbers.  The trick will be to keep it here, and ultimately that will be defined by support of local fans right here in the Pioneer Valley.

Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston.  He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Coverage of the MAAC Basketball Championships

The 2013 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championships are coming to Springfield Thursday, and Western Mass. Sports Biz will be at the MassMutual Center all weekend to cover the tournament which concludes Monday.  Check back for analysis and pictures from the event.  Coverage will include all business aspects of the tournament, including attendance, game presentation, and the venue, among others.

The tournament is in its second of a three-year commitment to Springfield, a year in which more local support has been asked upon.  The event brings ten men's and ten women's teams from around the Northeast to compete for an automatic bid to their respective NCAA tournaments.  Last year, decent support was drawn from the member schools, yet crowds lacked neutral fans from Western Mass.

The tournament will be giving back to the community by partnering with the Jimmy Fund to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  For every ticket sold at the tournament, a contribution will be made to the Jimmy Fund, along with a "text-to-give" campaign that will be promoted within the arena.  Spectators can text "JIMMY" to 22122 to contribute $5.  Additionally, a large canister will be placed in the MassMutual Center as another option for fans to make a donation.

Community events planned include the MAAC Restaurant Program, benefiting local restaurants where visiting fans can be part of a reward program.  This is a perfect example of how the tournament will be impacting locally-owned businesses, and the rest of the Pioneer Valley's economy.  Other events include a one-mile "Bounce to the Arena" from the Basketball Hall of Fame to the MassMutual Center, and MGM Springfield FanFest.

The tournament will be co-hosted by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and played at the 6,663-seat MassMutual Center.  Two women's games will be broadcasted live on ESPN3, available on and the WatchESPN app, while the final will be televised on ESPNU on Monday at noon.  On the men's side, 6 games will be broadcasted on ESPN3, with the final live on ESPN2 on Monday at 9.  If you can't make it to the MassMutual Center this weekend, check Western Mass. Sports Biz all weekend for coverage from the tournament.