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What Happens at DCU Center After Worcester Sharks Season Ends?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

 

This coming Sunday marks the end of the Worcester Sharks regular season. The team needs to win one more game in order to make the playoffs and keep them in Worcester a little longer. If they can't pull out a win over their final three games this weekend, it's farewell for good. The Sharks will pack up their things and head to San Jose to become the Barracuda.

The lingering question remains: After the Sharks leave, then what happens at the DCU Center?

"We've been talking to people in the AHL and they told us that twenty years is a good run in this league," said Worcester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tim Murray. "Everyone recognizes the DCU as one of the better facilities in the AHL. Three thousand on average in attendance is respectable. By and large, if you're able to bring in the right type of ownership group, I think there's the right opportunity here in Worcester."

Last Friday, President of the Worcester Sharks Booster Club Rich Lundin and Darryl Hunt, a member of the Board of Directors for the Sharks Booster Club and Sharks columnist for the Worcester Herald, met with Murray, City Manager Ed Augustus, and DCU General Manager Sandy Dunn.

"I can say they are all extremely committed in getting another team in here as soon as possible. Right now I believe there is a bit of a lull, because NHL and AHL teams are either preparing for playoffs, or shutting down their teams and players, and doing exit interviews at this time. So affiliations are on the back burner. I wouldn't be surprised if it (talks) picked up again end of May or early June," said Lundin.

Just two years ago, the DCU center underwent its first renovation in 30 years. The project cost $23 million, and will wind up costing the city's taxpayers nearly $31 million due to debt service. 

Part of the renovation was $7 million spent on improving the arena's hockey layout, specifically financed to improve the home of Sharks.

“We have been talking collaboratively with people, but the reality is, given what just took place here with the restructuring of the AHL, and the NHL increasing ownership of some of these franchises, I think it’s going to take a little while for the AHL to settle down until we can take a look at what franchises may become available," said Murray.

Sharks Need to Make the Playoffs 

In all likelihood, the Sharks will make the playoffs. The city of Worcester needs more than that. They need the Sharks to go deep into the playoffs as not only a last hurrah, but also, and more importantly, for economic purposes.

The Sharks haven't been to the playoffs in five years. They've never made it past the second round of the playoffs in the nine seasons they've been in Worcester - making the playoffs only three times. 

According to the American Hockey League, this season the Sharks are averaging less than 4,000 people per game. However, their attendance is higher than in 2009-2010 - the last time they went to the playoffs. That year, the Sharks had five home games and averaged less than 1,600 fans per game (7,814 total).

GoLocal Worcester asked Murray whether or not the city would encourage its residents to rally to the DCU Center to bid farewell if and when the Sharks make the playoffs. Murray said, "We haven't clinched it yet. They still have to get one point, but we will be working on something. We want to go out strong."

What's Next for DCU Center?

Upon announcement of the 2013 renovations, the DCU Center also acknowledged that it was the second part of a three-phase renovation that would occur at the arena. However, there was no formal date given as to when the third part of the renovations would occur.

According to Murray, the city is working on getting assistance from the state to help with the third phase of the renovations.

Another $30 million would be needed to secure the third part of the renovations that include new seating in the arena, a new concourse, bathrooms and elevators, as well as a sky bridge that connected the DCU Center to the adjacent Hilton Garden Inn hotel.

With the loss of the Sharks, that third phase of renovations does not seem likely any time soon.

“The one thing the Sharks did do, to their credit, is that they have kept (DCU General Manager) Sandy (Dunn) informed and tried to give her as much as notice as possible, so that in the interim she can try to book events and things for next year. We’ll have a sense as the year goes on, whether we have any traction for 2016-2017,” said Murray.

Throughout May and June, nearly all the events taking place at the DCU are high school dances and graduations. In fact, the DCU will host seven proms and 15 college and high school graduations. Most of those events won't even be held in the arena portion, but will take place in the Convention Center. 

Some events that should draw a crowd later this year include WWE Live, Motley Crue with Alice Cooper, MASSive Comic Con, and Marvel Universe LIVE!

For a full list of events in 2015 at the DCU Center, click here: Event Calendar.

 

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