By Zachary Baru
This summer baseball fans can check out what has been a nearly non-stop off-season of work at Mackenzie Stadium in Holyoke. Renovations to Mackenzie Stadium will give fans a chance to watch the Valley Blue Sox of the New England Collegiate Baseball League on a brand new field in 2017. This is not only great for baseball fans looking to watch the game in arguably the best baseball stadium in the area, but beneficial for the local economy in Holyoke as well.
The Blue Sox have for many years been an important economic driver in the City of Holyoke. Having tens of thousands of fans come into the city during the season has been important for businesses throughout the Paper City, and the current renovations will only add to this economic impact.
Renovations could not come at a better time, as Hartford will be opening their new "AA" minor league stadium, Dunkin' Donuts Park, in just 12 days. The 6,000-seat, $71 million dollar stadium will be the first development project in the new "Downtown North" neighborhood of the city. Opening day for the Hartford Yard Goats on April 13 is currently sold out.
Back in Holyoke, Western Mass. will have a new field of its own. The turf is down, and in great condition ahead of the 2017 NECBL season. Anyone who hasn't checked out a Blue Sox game will find low prices and a close proximity to future baseball stars.
Mackenzie Stadium opened in 1933, and today has a capacity of 4,100. In 2009, the NECBL All-Star Game at Mackenzie was oversold, and had an attendance of 4,906 fans. Mackenzie Stadium was home to the Holyoke Millers, a member of the "AA" Eastern League from 1977 through 1982. Baseball returned to Mackenzie Stadium in 2004, when the NECBL brought the Holyoke Giants to town. The franchise moved to Lynn, Massachusetts in 2007, making way for what was then called the Holyoke Blue Sox to come to the city in 2008.
For Holyoke, Mackenzie Stadium and the Blue Sox are pieces to the local economy that will bring in more than just fans from within the city and surrounding towns. Blue Sox baseball will bring in fans throughout the region, attracting fans to restaurants and stores throughout the city.
Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at email@example.com. He also writes for SportsBusinessBoston.com.