Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Renovations underway at Mackenzie Stadium

By Zachary Baru

There shouldn't be many more disputes about the name of Mackenzie Stadium in Holyoke, especially now that an enormous sign and logo has been placed on top of a new large scoreboard in left field.

Mackenzie Stadium, often referred to as Mackenzie Field, is much more than a field.  Especially now, that the venue and it's 600-seat grandstand has improvements such as the new scoreboard and a brand new infield.

The City of Holyoke has made many improvements over the years, including the fence and a new field last year (see "Renovations for Mackenzie Stadium key for Blue Sox, City of Holyoke, Western Mass. Sports Biz, March 2017.)  Come next season, Holyoke High and Valley Blue Sox fans will be able to enjoy a refreshed, modern look to the stadium.  The new scoreboard is purple for the colors of the Holyoke High School Purple Knights, and not only contains a large sign for the stadium, but it also has additional space for advertisements.

Mackenzie Stadium opened in 1933 and was home to the Holyoke Millers, a member of the "AA" Eastern League from 1977 through 1982.  In 2004, baseball once again returned to the Paper City, when the New England Collegiate Baseball League 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.  The Holyoke Blue Sox changed their name to the Valley Blue Sox in 2014.

With a new infield and new large scoreboard in left field, Mackenzie Stadium continues to provide one of the best stadium experiences for baseball in Western Massachusetts.  It may not have the capacity of the newest minor league stadiums, but with its history, and now its improvements, Mackenzie Stadium is a special place to be able to watch baseball 85 years after it first opened. 

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.  Zach also writes for SportsBusinessBoston.com.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

As MGM Springfield’s opening nears, Thunderbirds look to see attendance hike

By Zachary Baru

With the opening of MGM Springfield less than two months away, many Springfield businesses are eagerly awaiting the positive effects from the $950 million resort casino.  The Springfield Thunderbirds are one of these such businesses, and are in prime position to have yet another successful season from the expected attendance increase.

As the Thurnderds’ home sits across the street from the casino’s main entrance, any home game will most likely see a fair amount of casino guests, either making their way to or from the casino.

MGM Springfield has been a good supporter of the Thunderbirds ever since the announcement of their new Springfield resort, and has always said the casino will help boost local entertainment at the MassMutual Center, Symphony Hall and City Stage.

This appears to be nothing short of accurate, as the Thunderbirds will be a very good addition to a casino that already seems to offer many entertainment options.  One example of this will be the Thunderbirds hosting the 2019 American Hockey League All-Star game, which comes at a perfect time for Springfield, within 6 months of the casino’s grand opening.

Sports and entertainment has always meshed well with casinos, and Springfield looks to be no different.  Both parties here seem to be in a key position to benefit from each other, helping to enhance the city’s entertainment offering.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Just like the Red Sox "painted the town red" in 2003, the Thunderbirds do the same in 2018

By Zachary Baru

If there is one thing you can say about what the Springfield Thunderbirds have done since they were established in the summer of 2016, it's a sense of presence seen throughout the city. 

You can see it everywhere.  Their logo is everywhere.  Advertisements and banners throughout the city proudly show that this is Thunderbirds country, a strategy that teams have used for decades, and now brilliantly being used in our own backyard.

In 2003, the then-new Boston Red Sox ownership implemented a strategic marketing campaign to "paint the town red".  And paint the town red they did.  Within a matter of months, a much more streamlined and modern campaign of "Red Sox red" merchandise was available and being worn by many fans throughout the region.  Something somewhat similar is brewing here in Springfield.   

When the Thunderbirds came into town, there was a big need.  And that was support.  There was never a question of whether Western Massachusetts liked hockey, but there was a question of whether the region could support it. 

From the Boston Red Sox 2003 marketing campaign.
Fast forward to 2018, and the Thunderbirds' logo or banner can be seen everywhere.  Drive by Forrest Park, by MGM Springfield, or simply look at the car in front of you, it just might have a Thunderbirds bumper sticker, one of many that were distributed to fans since 2016. 

It is this excellent combination of traditional and grass-roots marketing that makes the Thunderbirds successful, and looks to lead to a bright future for the franchise.

The team has had commercials, both on television and radio, and even used billboards, but the marketing that can be seen everyday are the many logos that residents throughout the city see on a daily basis.  And regardless of whether you're a hockey fan or not, regardless of whether you are planning on seeing a game or not, you still are reminded of the Thunderbirds - a very important piece to the puzzle for any business.

It is this kind of marketing, in addition to an increased social media presence from three years ago, that will help carry the Thunderbirds into the future.  Just like the Red Sox "painted the town red" in 2003, the Thunderbirds are making their presence felt throughout the City of Springfield.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.  Zach also writes for SportsBusinessBoston.com.