- Matt Fiedler
MassMutual Center – Springfield Thunderbirds
Photos by Paul Baker & Matt Fiedler, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
MassMutual Center 1277 Main St Springfield, MA 01103
Springfield Thunderbirds website
Year Opened: 1972
Spring into Fun
Hockey has been in Springfield for a long time. Minor league hockey has been in Springfield since 1926 when the Springfield Indians came to be. The team has changed names from the Indians to the Kings to the Falcons to the Thunderbirds. What hasn’t changed is the passion that fans have in Springfield for hockey. Western Mass is filled with hockey fanatics. The current home of the Springfield Thunderbirds, the MassMutual Center has been around since 1972. It underwent a renovation that was completed in 2005. In 2015 a new videoboard was installed and the arena lighting switched to LEDs. All in all, it’s a solid AHL venue in a city that really knows its hockey. The area around the arena is improving as well which adds to the appeal of going to see a game in Springfield.
Food & Beverage 4
The food & beverage selection at MassMutual Center is certainly above average compared to other arenas in the AHL. You can of course find plenty of hot dogs, popcorn, candy, and peanuts at MassMutual but you can also find some premium options as well. Stop by section 1 to find the always popular Chick-Fil-A. The stand doesn’t offer the full menu but does offer sandwiches and fries. At section 4 you’ll find Butcher Block Barbeque which offers brisket, pulled pork, mac and cheese, and more. Cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, and wraps can be found at Center Grille by section 7 and loaded nachos can be found at Casa Del Sol Cantina by section 2.
The MassMutual Center fan experience is a pretty typical AHL atmosphere. From the t-shirt toss to the in-game host to the blaring music during each stoppage, the atmosphere checks every box. The massive video board certainly is a plus and allows you to always have a clear view of what’s going on at any given moment. It is definitely true that the atmosphere can be co-opted by Bruins fans when Providence comes to town. At times it seemed like there were more P-Bruins fans than Thunderbird fans. However, the bottom line is that the atmosphere is family friendly and also has a vast contingent of fans who really know their hockey and are very passionate about the sport.
The MassMutual Center is located in Downtown Springfield. This has traditionally been viewed as a rough area but things have improved in recent years. Adjacent to the MassMutual Center is MGM Springfield which has become even busier with the legalization of sports gambling in Massachusetts. Fans can do some gambling or grab a bite to eat at MGM before the game. Also nearby is the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is a must visit location for any sports fan and encompasses large swaths of basketball history, not just the NBA. If you’re looking for any other entertainment options, Springfield Museums are located a short walk from the MassMutual Center.
There are also several great dining options in the vicinity of the MassMutual Center. The choices are headlined by the ever popular Red Rose Pizzeria. If you’re looking for a few slices or a chicken parm, check out Red Rose. Many different cuisines can be found near the arena including Indian, Vietnamese, and Mediterranean.
Springfield Thunderbird fans really know their hockey. Hockey has a long and rich history in the city of Springfield and there are no shortage of hockey aficionados among the ranks of Thunderbird fans. The Thunderbirds have averaged an impressive 6,125 fans in the 2022-2023 season. That ranks 13th in the AHL. The tilts with the Providence Bruins are where you’ll find the largest crowds. While the crowd certainly knows its hockey, this doesn’t mean that the fans are confrontational or aggressive. A Thunderbirds game is a very family friendly event and fans of all ages will have a great time. If you’re a fan of an opposing team you will definitely not be harassed or ridiculed.
The MassMutual Center is very centrally located and is thus very easy to get to. It is conveniently located right off of I-91. It is also very close to I-90, AKA the Mass Pike. There is a good amount of street level parking, garages, and various other lots. The casino also has a large parking garage and is just a short walk from the MassMutual Center.
Where the MassMutual Center loses points is its concourse size. Between periods be prepared to be shoulder to shoulder as you traverse the concourse. If you plan to get food between periods, leave a minute or two before the buzzer so you can beat the rush. The bathrooms are also on the smaller size as well.
Return on Investment 4
As is the case with most minor league venues, there’s very good bang for your buck when attending a game. Tickets range from $20-$36. That is phenomenal value to see many players who will eventually graduate to the NHL. The food is moderately priced as well. A hot dog and a water can be had for under $10.00 which is less than the price you’ll find at many other venues, particularly pro venues. Not only are the tickets and concessions fairly inexpensive but you can also find plenty of free parking around the arena. A night at a Thunderbirds game in Springfield won’t break the bank and you’ll also see some quality hockey.
One star goes to the rich history of hockey in Springfield. It’s great to see that the tradition of minor league hockey continues to this day and that attendance has ticked up and the passion is still there.
A second star goes to the Springfield Hockey Hall of Fame that is located along the concourse. It highlights several important figures in Springfield hockey history.
While Springfield has always been known as a rough area, it has undergone a bit of a revival. There are now several excellent entertainment options. Fans can check out the Basketball Hall of Fame, put down a few dollars at the sportsbook at MGM, or check out a museum. When you add in some great dining options, a night in Springfield sounds like a pretty good time. While the arena won’t blow you away, you’ll have a great time and it won’t break the bank. A Thunderbirds game is a fun way to spend a night with the family.