Saturday, December 5, 2015

Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase once again brings UMass back to Springfield

By Zachary Baru

SPRINGFIELD - For the fifth time in as many years, the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase brought college basketball back to the MassMutual Center, as the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team faced Ole Miss Saturday afternoon in Springfield before 3,765 fans.

While the final score was not in UMass' favor, a 74-64 loss, it provided Springfield-area fans a chance to see a game right from downtown, as the Hall of Fame continued a tradition between UMass and the city of Springfield.

This year's Holiday Showcase gave UMass basketball another opportunity of a nationally televised game, this time live on the NBC Sports Network.  Not only was Saturday an opportunity for UMass to receive national exposure, but it was the second time in 2015 that an event in the city of Springfield was to be televised nationally.  The Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony back in September was Springfield's first nationally televised event of the year, broadcast live on NBA TV.

Saturday's game marked the eighth straight year that UMass men's basketball has made an appearance in Springfield.  When the Hall of Fame began the Holiday Showcase in 2011, the pairing of the event and UMass basketball was the perfect combination.  It kept college basketball, and more specifically UMass basketball, in the city in what has become a popular annual event.

The Holiday Showcase comes at a busy time for Basketball Hall of Fame events.  The Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament was just two weeks ago at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, featuring eight division I teams over two days.  ESPN2 was on-site to televise one game on Sunday, with the rest on ESPN 3.

Last week in Miami, the Hall of Fame presented the first-ever Hoophall Miami Invitational at the AmericanAirlines Center, live on ESPN.  The doubleheader featured Kentucky-South Florida and Ohio State-Memphis.

The crowd at the MassMutual Center Saturday was decent, with the majority of the sides filled in both the upper and lower levels.  The Holiday Showcase also offered basketball fans a chance to see new improvements at the MassMutual Center.  Fans enjoyed the massive new center-hung video scoreboard and LED lighting that was installed in the arena this past summer.

Among those in attendance, Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno could be seen rooting on UMass.

Once again the Basketball Hall of Fame has brought a successful event to Springfield, keeping college basketball at the MassMutual Center and continuing the tradition of UMass basketball in the city.  It is events like these that help the economic activity in and around downtown, and bring business into the city of Springfield.  Hopefully the relatively new tradition of the Holiday Showcase will be here to stay for years to come.

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament: Weekend of basketball concludes with over 8,000 fans coming to Mohegan

By Zachary Baru

UNCASVILLE - After eight games over two days, the 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament came to an end Sunday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

The total attendance for the weekend-long tournament came to 8,320 fans, many of which traveled long distances to support their favorite team.  Patrons throughout Mohegan Sun could be seen wearing their teams' gear all weekend in the casino, restaurants, mall and hotel.

The tournament concluded Sunday evening with the two championship games.  In the first championship, Florida and Purdue battled in the Naismith Bracket before a national television audience live on ESPN2.  Purdue captured the championship topping Florida 85-70.  The Springfield Bracket championship game immediately followed, with Vermont facing Buffalo live on ESPN3.  Buffalo claimed the championship 77-71.

The tournament began with 4,507 fans on Saturday, and concluded before 3,813 on Sunday.

In all, this year's Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament entertained over 8,000 fans with competitive and entertaining basketball all weekend long, giving fans the exciting product they have come to expect year after year at the Tip-Off Tournament.

Special thanks to the Basketball Hall of Fame for their excellent hospitality all weekend.  And thank you as well for reading the coverage here on Western Mass. Sports Biz.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament: Once again, Mohegan shines as host to Tip-Off Tournament

By Zachary Baru

UNCASVILLE - If you looked throughout New England of the possible venues for a basketball tournament, none could be more fitting as the perfect host.  This was the case all weekend long, as Mohegan Sun once again proved to be the ideal setting for the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The 9,323-seat Mohegan Sun Arena provides a modern, intimate atmosphere in an arena that year-after-year welcomes some of the biggest names in music worldwide.  It is consistently ranked as a top venue, winning at the Country Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, and at the G2E Global Gaming Conference.

Aside from the arena, hosting the tournament at Mohegan Sun provides a true destination for the fans, media and the families of the athletes.  Mohegan Sun offers more than just gaming, but a luxury hotel and spa, restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping and entertainment.

Between the allure of Mohegan Sun and the accommodations it provides, no other venue in New England could offer a better setting for this event.

Walking through the hotel, plenty of fans and families of the athletes took advantage of the 1,200-room hotel.  In fact, the entire casino was full of fans wearing their teams' colors and making a weekend out of the event.

Glancing around the arena, there were more than just adults and college students.  Fans of all ages could be found throughout the lower and upper levels.  Once again, the Basketball Hall of Fame and Mohegan Sun have put on a first-class event, providing great entertainment all weekend long.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at

Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament: Day 2 begins with close, competitive consolation games

By Zachary Baru

UNCASVILLE - Don't let the word "consolation" fool you about the first two games of day 2 in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.  The games were nothing short of competitive and extremely close throughout the afternoon.  Saint Joseph's captured a 66-64 win over Old Dominion and Niagara edged North Carolina A&T 73-72 at the Tip-Off Tournament's consolation games in Uncasville, Connecticut.

As the majority of the crowds are not expected until later in the day, the crowds for the consolation games were on the lighter side.  But that certainly did not mean the crowds were quiet, as the tight games and the intimacy of the Mohegan Sun Arena made for an extremely enjoyable atmosphere.

As game 2 winded down, Niagara stole the lead from North Carolina A&T, and the Niagara fans let their presence be known.   A good amount of Niagara fans made the trip to Mohegan, as fans from all sections erupted when Niagara captured the lead late in the second half.

The full day of basketball continues at 5:30 p.m. for game 3, when Florida faces Purdue in the Naismith Bracket championship game.  This game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.  Like all games, the game can also be seen live on ESPN3, available on the WatchESPN app and on

The tournament will wrap-up with the Springfield Bracket championship game when Vermont takes on Buffalo at 8 p.m.

Check back for updates of the action from the Mohegan Sun Arena as day 2 of the Tip-Off Tournament continues.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament: Day 1 of tournament comes to an end at Mohegan Sun Arena

By Zach Baru

UNCASVILLE - After a full day of basketball at the Mohegan Sun Arena, day one 1 of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament came to an end with 4,507 fans on hand.  The attendance reflected the four games played, Purdue-Old Dominion, Florida-St. Joseph's, Vermont-Niagara and Buffalo-North Carolina A&T.

The majority of the fans came out for the Purdue-Old Dominion and Florida-St. Joseph's match-ups.  Since the games were sold as a session to ticket holders, individual game attendances were not available.  The Florida-St. Joseph's game, however, was the highest attended game of the day.

In the final two games of the day, the attendance died off.  Vermont - the only New England team in the tournament - faced Niagara and Buffalo took on North Carolina to end the day of basketball.

While the event was not a sell out, the Mohegan Sun Arena still provided a great atmosphere for the games.  There are not any bad seats in the intimate 9,323-seat arena, a key reason why the venue has won multiple awards for the top arena in the nation.

As day 1 comes to a close at the Mohegan Sun Arena, there is still plenty more action to come tomorrow.  Day 2 begins with the two consolation games in the afternoon, as Saint Joseph's-Old Dominion tip-off at noon and North Carolina A&T-Niagara begins at at 2:30 p.m.

The night session of day 2 includes the championship games, with Florida-Purdue beginning at 5:30 p.m. and Vermont-Buffalo starting at 8 p.m.  The Florida-Purdue game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.  The other three games will be broadcast on ESPN3, which is available on the WatchESPN app or on

That's a wrap from day 1.  Check back tomorrow for coverage of day 2 right here from the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at

Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament: Teams' fans come out to Mohegan to show support

By Zachary Baru

UNCASVILLE - For anyone visiting Mohegan Sun on Saturday, there was no question what the day's event at the arena was.  From the casino, to the mall, to the hotel, the resort casino was filled with fans traveling from all over the country for the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

There did not appear to be any specific team that had a majority of the fans, as the fairly equal levels of support did not give any team much of an advantage over the other.

Walking through the hotel, fans of the various teams were found all over.  This is yet another example of what makes Mohegan Sun such a fitting host for the tournament, as fans traveling to support their team could be accommodated at the hotel just steps away from the 9,323-seat Mohegan Sun Arena.

And who could blame the fans for wanting to come to a destination such as Mohegan Sun?  Between the hotel and spa, restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping, entertainment, and of course the casino, its obvious why fans continue to make the journey to support this first-class event.

A venue that includes an on-site hotel not only makes it easy for fans, but for the many members of the media as well who were on site to cover the weekend-long tournament.

Mohegan Sun's luxury hotel and spa, just a two minute walk from the arena through the retail shops, is 34 stories tall with 1,200 luxury rooms and suites.  Many fans making the trip to Mohegan Sun took advantage of the accommodations, making for a great weekend of basketball in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at

Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament: Day 1 begins with decent crowds, good action at Mohegan

By Zachary Baru

UNCASVILLE - As a weekend of Division I basketball begins, the Mohegan Sun Arena proves once again to be a perfect host to the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Connecticut.

One has come to expect quality basketball at a first-class venue at the Tip-Off tournament, and the 2015 edition has shown nothing less as Purdue, Old Dominion, Florida and Saint Joseph's all faced off to begin the weekend-long tournament.

The afternoon began with Purdue and Old Dominion tipping off at noon.  Purdue easily held off Old Dominion 61-39 before a decent Mohegan Sun Arena crowd.  Attendance will not be made available until later in the evening, but the arena's lower level was modestly full, while the fans in the upper level were sparse.

In game 2, Florida topped Saint Josephs's 74-63.  The afternoon's second game was played before a slightly larger crowd, although an official attendance was not available at the time of this post.

The four teams seemed to have a relatively even level of support, as no one team dominated the arena.  In the casino, mall and hotel, fans could be found everywhere, further proof of the level of hospitality provided by hosting the tournament at Mohegan Sun.

Check back all weekend long for more updates from the Tip-Off Tournament as Western Mass. Sports Biz will be covering the entire weekend of action right from inside the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at

Coverage of the 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament

Western Mass. Sports Biz is proud to be back at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament to cover the weekend-long event from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.  Check back here for analysis and pictures from the tournament all weekend.

The eight-team, two-day tournament will feature all eight games broadcast live on ESPN networks - one on ESPN2, and the remaining seven on ESPN3.  ESPN3 is available on the WatchESPN app or on

The tournament will include eight NCAA Division I men's basketball teams, including Florida, Old Dominion, Purdue, Saint Joseph's, Vermont, Niagara, Buffalo and North Carolina A&T.

The teams will be split into two brackets, the Naismith Bracket and the Springfield Bracket.  The championship game of the Naismith Bracket will be broadcast live on ESPN2 on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

The 9,323-seat Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut opened in 2001, and welcomes some of the biggest names in music each year.  In 2013 the venue was voted "Venue of the Year" at the G2E Global Gaming Conference in Las Vegas and has won "Casino of the Year" at the Country Music Awards in 2008, 2010 and 2013.

This will be the third year Western Mass. Sports Biz has had the pleasure of reporting from the Tip-Off Tournament, and 2015 looks to be another great weekend of Division I college basketball.  If you can't make it, check back here for coverage from the weekend-long event.

Friday, November 6, 2015

2015-16 UMass basketball season to feature ten televised games between NBCSN, CBSSN and ESPNU

By Zachary Baru

Television exposure does not look to be an issue this season for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team, as ten games are scheduled to be televised across three different networks for the upcoming season.

NBC Sports Network will broadcast five games in the 2015-16 season, including the 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase at the MassMutual Center on December 5 against Ole Miss.  This will be the fifth year the Hall of Fame has hosted the Holiday Showcase at the MassMutual Center, a great opportunity for Springfield fans to catch UMass basketball downtown.

CBS Sports Network will be carrying four games, including the December 21 game against Providence at the Mullins Center.  This game will be a "maroon-out" in Amherst, with 2,000 students receiving t-shirts.

The lone game on the ESPN family of networks will be televised on ESPNU when the Minutemen host VCU in Amherst on February 11.  This game will be a "white-out" game at the Mullins Center, again with 2,000 students getting t-shirts.

Additionally, an eleventh game will be televised on NESN when UMass visits Harvard in Cambridge on November 17.  This will be the first game of the season to be televised.

What all of this television exposure brings is a tremendous opportunity for the Minutemen to reach fans nationwide, promoting the brand of UMass basketball.  With conferences such as the ACC and Big 10 dominating television, fans of UMass will likely be satisfied with the coverage available during the upcoming season.  For the Minutemen, if they are any less than satisfied, there is one simple ingredient to assuring more airtime - winning.

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MGM Springfield's new hotel design would still have a positive impact on sports and entertainment

By Zachary Baru

MGM Springfield's changes to the hotel design of their $800 million resort casino in the South End should still have the same effect on the city's sports and entertainment events.  Once completed, the development should be a major driver of economic activity throughout the region, reenergizing the city's sporting events and concerts at the MassMutual Center, Symphony Hall and on the grounds of the resort casino itself.

MGM Springfield has committed to still build a 250-room hotel, the same number of rooms that was originally outlined in the once proposed 25-story hotel. Not only will the same number of rooms be built, but moving the hotel to Main Street allows MGM to move their planned market-rate apartments across the street, expanding the development to a greater scale in the South End.

With the same number of hotel rooms available, the effect on sports and entertainment should still be that of a positive one, drawing people from around the region to potential events in Springfield venues. The Springfield Falcons and concerts at the MassMutual Center and Symphony Hall are a few events that should benefit from a surge in tourism provided by MGM Springfield. 

With the opening of the Union Station Regional Intermodal Transportation Center in 2017, combining terminals for trains and busses entering the city, and the addition of the new commuter rail between New Haven and Springfield, the opportunity to expand sports and entertainment offerings in Springfield will be better than ever.

MGM Springfield's plans for a 250-room hotel will make it even easier to accommodate large events and conventions here in Springfield.  This is a unique opportunity to grow Springfield's sports and entertainment offerings for decades to come.

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Follow up: Quick facts about Dunkin' Donuts Park in Hartford

The city of Springfield has expressed the idea of a baseball stadium as part of their "Vision 2017" presentation in March 2015.  Meanwhile, twenty-five minutes down the road in Hartford, the city of Hartford has broken ground for a $56 million minor league baseball stadium as part of a $350 million mixed development plan.  The plan calls for retail, residential and commercial development along with the ballpark.  A bold plan, but an interesting one that could pay dividends for decades to come as an under-utilized area of Hartford could become a destination for tourists and residential space.

Quick facts about Dunkin' Donuts Park in Hartford:
  • Broke ground in June 2015.
  • The stadium is expected to open in April 2016.
  • The ballpark is expected to bring more than 1,000 permanent jobs.  (University of Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis study)
  • The stadium is expected to cost $56 million, and it will be paid out in increments of about $2.4 million per year for 26 years. 
  • The Hartford Stadium Authority will borrow money upfront and then pay off the construction debt.
  • The ballpark is part of a $350 million mixed-use development plan called Downtown North, including retail, residential and commercial development.
  • The team name will be changed the the Hartford Yard Goats.
Source: FOXCT

Will Hartford's baseball stadium be a model for Springfield?

By Zachary Baru

Going to the Comcast Theater in Hartford a few weeks ago was interesting.  No it wasn't the thousands of people for the concert or all of the tailgating that was happening in the area, it was the progress of a construction site not too far from the music venue.  The construction for Dunkin' Donuts Park is underway, along the fence of the site reads a banner displaying a completion date of 2016.  

It may just be a construction site for now, and the stadium may be far from completion, but one thing you cannot criticize Hartford for is progress.  They are getting things done, and doing so rather quickly.  It was just last year that the New Britain Rock Cats' move to Hartford was announced, and now a completion date of 2016 is set.  While many people may say "I'll believe it when I see it", just the construction alone in Hartford should be enough to make Pioneer Valley sports fans excited for some of the ideas that have been announced by the city of Springfield.  

We've heard all of the ideas and possibilities before.  A baseball stadium, an iMax theater, an aquarium, and so on.  What we have seen so far is a new Basketball Hall of Fame and surrounding mixed-use development, the renovation of a rail station that is finally getting the attention it deserves, and the planned $800 million resort casino that will bring economic benefits to downtown Springfield.  The time has never been better to push for a baseball stadium to complement this growth in Springfield.

As we watch Hartford do what it takes to strengthen their economy, what will Springfield do to help establish their own?  A new baseball stadium provides an excellent opportunity to attract tourism and and economic activity to an area that already will be rejuvenated by the opening of the Union Station Regional Intermodal Transportation Center in 2016.  A baseball stadium is an opportunity to parley this economic growth in the "New North" district with a destination for families from across the region.  Let's make that destination Springfield, and let's hope Hartford's plans become a model for similar economic development in Springfield.

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Minor league stadium key for economic growth in Springfield

By Zachary Baru

Springfield finds itself in a unique situation.  Within the next two years the city will see the development of an $800 million resort casino, Union Station will be renovated to become a regional transportation center, and a new factory to produce subway cars for Boston will be built by CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles.  This is a massive amount of economic activity within a relatively small radius, all happening within the next two years.  The timing for a minor league baseball stadium has never been better.

For Springfield to prosper, the city needs to be one where people can live, work and play.  Let's focus on the play part for now.  MGM Springfield's resort casino will bring an influx of regional visitors to the city who once may never have had a reason to come visit Springfield.  The more entertainment options the city can offer, the longer tourists will stay in Springfield, maximizing Springfield's economic potential.

The South End will be rejuvenated with MGM's plans for not only a resort casino, but outdoor options such as restaurants, shopping and entertainment, creating a true "inside-out" casino that can benefit the community.

Downtown will see more visitors that may be lead to attend events such as Falcons games and concerts at the MassMutual Center, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and other shows at Symphony Hall, and events at CityStage.

The North End will become an improved and important multi-modal transportation center, where visitors can access Amtrak, Peter Pan, Greyhound and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority all in one place for the first time.  But what about that "play" aspect that is so important to a city's development?  Where does this fit into the picture in the North End?

In order for Springfield to see full economic development, the focus cannot be solely
on the South End and Downtown.  Which leads to why Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy did such a great job with their presentation of "Springfield Vision 2017: The Right Direction" last Tuesday at CityStage.  Not only did their ideas of expanding development across the entire city show steps towards the right direction, but the idea of a new minor league baseball stadium showed forward-thinking and potential for the entire city.  While the idea is still a long-shot at the moment, a baseball team bringing thousands of fans into the city for 70 dates throughout the summer can represent yet another economic boost for a city that is exploding with economic potential.

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

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Despite recent sellout, Falcons' attendance still struggling

By Zachary Baru

The MassMutual Center may have been sold out last week when the Falcons lost to Providence, but attendance during the 2014-15 season is low, even for a small market such as Springfield.

Through 20 home games, the Falcons are averaging 3,068 fans per game, which ranks 29th of 30 franchises in the American Hockey League.  The Falcons' total attendance for the season is 61,351.

Other regional teams include Hartford, averaging 3,967 per game and Worcester with a home average of 3,539 fans per game.

The Falcons did enjoy a sellout crowd last week, when 6,784 fans braved a snow storm to see the Falcons take on the Providence Bruins.  The night included a pre-game ceremony honoring Springfield's 1975 Calder Cup championship team, as well as the U.S. and Canadian anthems sung by TD Garden legend Rene Rancourt.

Averaging 3,000 fans is not enough in today's AHL, as the league now includes more large markets and sees attendances that many nights exceed 10,000 fans.  Recent attendances from Hershey and Hartford were 10,243 and 10,789 consecutively.  Hershey also tops the league in attendance, averaging 9,461 fans per game.  Lake Erie, Chicago, Lehigh Valley and Providence make up the rest of the top 5 in league attendance, consecutively.

Although a market such as Providence tops Springfield in size, both share one important aspect of a healthy and successful hockey market - participation and passion.  Western Massachusetts has many youth, high school and college hockey programs, which is key for success in any market.  Couple that with the passion Western Mass. fans have had for professional hockey since 1926, and you get a great hockey market with a lot of potential.  Springfield has all of this, giving reason to believe that better days are ahead for this small, but special market.

Source: American Hockey League

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