Friday, May 31, 2013

Springfield will need to fill void left by departure of MAAC

By Zachary Baru

The stands in the MassMutual Center may not have been packed last March, but anyone interpreting that as a reason not to worry about the loss of a tournament troubled with attendance problems needs to consider the affects outside the arena, and in the local economy.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Championships will be leaving the city of Springfield after 2014, resulting in a major economic blow to the entire region.  Business from hotels to restaurants, and any store in between that attracts travelers from out of state, will be affected by the loss of the tournament.

Attendance this past March was 14,394 for the entire tournament, partly the result of a low turnout from local fans.  In defense of the Pioneer Valley, the conference does not have any teams from Massachusetts, leaving Marist, Siena and Fairfield as the closest schools.

Although attendance was low, the economic impact was still significant.  The tournament attracted twenty men's and women's teams combined, which in addition to the players, coaches and trainers, also accounted for groups of students and families making the trip and calling Springfield home for multiple days.  It is this economic activity that helped pump money into businesses throughout the region, helping business owners and employees alike - just ask any server depending on tips who works at a nearby restaurant.

With economic impact, everything adds up to make a difference in a region.  This is the void the Pioneer Valley will be feeling come March of 2015 when the tournament returns to the Times Union Center in Albany.

With the MassMutual Center and the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau placing a bid to host an NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Regional in 2014, the city should still continue to seek a replacement for the MAAC tournament come 2015.  The thought of neither tournament taking place in Springfield in 2015 means fewer hotels being booked, less patrons at restaurants, and a true loss for the entire region.

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

Friday, May 24, 2013

Falcons 2012-13 attendance increases 6.8 percent

By Zachary Baru

The Springfield Falcons finished the 2012-13 season similar to the rest of the American Hockey League, as attendance for both the Falcons and the league increased in a season which began with a National Hockey League lockout.  The Falcons attendance increased 6.8 percent this season to an average of 3,906 fans per home game. 

This brought the Falcons total attendance for the season to 148,442.  The AHL also increased average attendance, with a 1.3 percent increase to 5,710 fans per game for the 30 franchises.

While the AHL has large market franchises including Chicago, Houston and Toronto, the top-ranked team in attendance was the Hershey Bears.  Hershey finished as the only AHL team above the 10,000 mark, with 10,046 fans per game.  The franchise ranked last in attendance was Oklahoma City, finishing with an avereage of 3,527. 

What all of this shows is that the Falcons find themselves in a growing league, and while their attendance has increased from last season, 4,000 really is a number they need to climb on top of.  In today's AHL, 3,900 fans per game just is not going to cut it.

The Falcons have stated that they will attempt a strong season ticket and group sales effort this summer, which will be imperative to setting a solid foundation for the attendance once the fall comes.  It is also very important that local businesses step-in to show their support, as corporate sponsorships are a major contributor to the franchise's off-ice success.  If all of these parts come together over the summer, the Falcons should be in position to keep up with the growing AHL, and build on the growth from this past season.

Source: SportsBusiness Journal

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