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Springfield Thunderbirds Find Success Under 29-Person Ownership Group

Springfield Thunderbirds

The debut of the Springfield Thunderbirds was notable not only for the team’s solid attendance marks, but for its interesting ownership structure. Headed by Paul Picknelly, the Thunderbirds ownership group includes 28 other business owners. 

As was noted here recently, the Thunderbirds’ debut season at the MassMutual Center was met with a positive response from fans. Filling the void of AHL action created by the departure of the Springfield Falcons, the Thunderbirds averaged over 4,600 fans per game, and drew a reported attendance figure of 6,217 for their season finale earlier this month. The per-game average marked a sharp increase from the Falcons’ mark of 3,108 in their final season at the MassMutual Center.

That provides some optimism going froward, and it is clear that the team has solid support from Springfield’s business community. In assembling his ownership group to acquire the franchise, Picknelly recruited investment from area business owners, including those who ran competing enterprises.

Ultimately, the endeavor provided the Thunderbirds with increased exposure, and created a 29-member ownership structure that those involved credit with helping to build interest in the club. More from Mass Live:

In Picknelly’s view, a thriving AHL team in downtown Springfield will benefit business in the city at large. It’s only logical, then, that everyone from hotel owners to presidents of real estate businesses to owners of local Dunkin Donuts franchises would want to get on board.

Twenty-eight local businesspeople agreed. The Thunderbirds’ 29-member ownership group has brought a sense of stability, establishing roots in the community right away for the new Springfield franchise. The size of the group also means that the team has no shortage of business and marketing expertise in-house.

“I went to my competition and asked them to be my partner in the Thunderbirds, because we thought that that was the right thing to do,” Picknelly said in the week after the Thunderbirds’ inaugural season ended.

To Dennis Murphy, one of the first members to join the ownership group, the way each investor put aside any sense of rivalry with the other local businesses involved was remarkable. So was Picknelly’s work to bring all those investors together.

“Paul Picknelly put in an inordinate amount of time that makes no sense from a financial standpoint from him, because he’s got all these other things that he’s doing,” Murphy said.

The Thunderbirds arrived from Portland, ME–where they were known as the Portland Pirates–shortly after the Falcons completed their move to Tucson.

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