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UMass Lowell buying Tsongas Arena

The home of the UMass Lowell River Hawks and the AHL's Lowell Devils will shift from the city to the university at a bargain price: $800,000.

The home of the UMass Lowell River Hawks and the AHL's Lowell Devils will shift from the city to the university at a bargain price: $800,000.

Of course, there are many other benefits as well: the city will be able to walk away from yearly maintenance fees for the facility, which had been averaging $1.3 million annually. Still, the fact the school received a $24 million arena and land for future development for a rather paltry sum certainly seems to be an amazing thing to us.

Here's the press release from UMass Lowell:

prior to a Hockey East matchup between the eighth-ranked UMass Lowell River Hawks and the fourth-ranked Boston University Terriers, Chancellor Marty Meehan, Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch and state Sen. Steven C. Panagiotakos announced details of a purchase-and-sale agreement under which the university would take ownership of the arena. They were joined by other city and state elected officials and members of the UMass Lowell community. Lynch, Meehan and UMass President Jack Wilson were to complete execution of the agreement (which already had been signed by UMass Building Authority Executive Director David MacKenzie) later at an on-ice ceremony.

“For us, this is about making UMass Lowell a place where students want to be. We have increased enrollment substantially and now have nearly 3,000 students living in university housing,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan. “The arena will help us provide the array of activities and events necessary to keep them engaged and happy – important ingredients for ensuring that students succeed academically.” He pointed out that universities with Division I sports programs, as UMass Lowell has for hockey, have campus arenas.

“Almost 12 years ago, the city forged a unique partnership with the university and the Commonwealth to bring a mid-sized concert and performance venue to Lowell. The Tsongas Arena is on the map regionally and nationally because of our stewardship of it. Now, we look forward to the arena’s next phase,” Lynch said.

“This agreement is good for Lowell and good for UMass Lowell,” said Panagiotakos of Lowell, who brokered an agreement between the city and the university. “This will be a major asset and resource for the university and a major savings for Lowell taxpayers.”

  • The university’s benefits from the agreement include:
    The $24 million 6,500-seat arena, debt free;
    The 3-acre parcel adjacent to the arena, to be developed as a commercial property in a way that complements the arena;
    The surrounding park and grounds, which will now be available for a broad range of campus activities;
    Year-round use of an arena for university events;
    Increased opportunities to generate new revenues;
    Easier and more cost-effective use of the facility.

Benefits to the city of Lowell include:

  • $800,000;
  • No further responsibility for running the arena and covering its costs, which have been up to $1.3 million a year;
  • The opportunity to conduct five annual events;
  • Ice time for public use at cost;
  • A university-owned parcel of land on Pawtucket Boulevard.

The university, through the UMass Building Authority, is committed to $5 million in capital improvements to create a more vibrant event experience and enhance revenues.

Before the university would own the facility and grounds outright, the Lowell City Council must pass a home-rule petition. The state Legislature would need to pass the petition, which would then be sent to Gov. Deval Patrick for his signature. Both the university and city expect that the transfer will be completed in January.

In investigating the feasibility of ownership, UMass Lowell had identified examples of similarly sized university-owned arenas that operate at no net cost to the institution. UMass Lowell is the only team in the Division I Hockey East conference that does not own its ice arena.

Under university management, the arena would continue to offer the same quality events as in past years, including UMass Lowell and AHL-affiliated Lowell Devils hockey, other sporting events, and family shows and concerts, with plans to deliver more events and a wider range of performances.

At the same time, the arena would be more readily available for campus events and activities. In addition to River Hawk hockey games, student-based events that have been held at the arena for a fee – such as the annual Open House and Commencement – would now be seamless campus undertakings. New UMass Lowell uses could include campus-wide convocations, alumni and fundraising events, orientation activities, offices for some campus functions, and as a hub for the weekend-long fall homecoming series of activities and performances.

The arena is located adjacent to UMass Lowell’s largest cluster of student housing. The immediate area also features LeLacheur Park, home to River Hawk baseball and other student-centered events during the school year, as well as UMass Lowell’s Campus Recreation Center. The arena will help solidify the area as a nexus for student activities.

Together with the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center at the Lower Locks complex downtown, the arena also will help integrate UMass Lowell students into the heart of the city, benefitting both students and downtown business establishments.

“Transferring ownership of the Tsongas Arena to UMass Lowell will ultimately benefit everyone who lives, works, learns and finds enjoyment in the city,” Meehan said. The Tsongas Arena opened in January 1998. Its construction was funded with $20 million from the state, $4 million from UMass Lowell and $4 million from the city of Lowell. The arena was recently assessed at $24 million.

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