This past Friday I went to a Young Professionals of Greater Lowell event at the Tsongas Center. This was my first YPGL event and also my first time to the Arena since it became a Center. I have to say that I'm impressed with what they've done with the place!
The new club areas look great. The YPGL meeting was in one of the clubs, the Talon Club. Although I decided against introducing myself to Chancellor Meehan (this was a dual-function meet with UML alumni), I did have a good, long conversation with somebody I met who works over at the Department of Planning and Development. Go networking.
Having only a passing interest in hockey (it was UML versus Northeastern, Northeastern won in OT), I spent much of the game studying the crowd. Total seats sold? About 50% UML student count? Very low. Commuter school, Friday night...not too surprised. Is it always like this? Northeastern fans? Surpisingly high. How many are current and how many are locals who went there years earlier, I don't know. UML fans from the community, many with children? Probably the largest demographic, and a pleasant surprise after the loss of our AHL team. Watching the scoreboard list off organizations that were there, a surprising number of companies and schools were at the game for a Friday night hours after work closes.
After the game, my friend and I walked back to my house, down Arcand Drive and then along Dutton Street. As we were walking on sheer ice and knee-deep snow along high-speed roads and by one parking lot after another, it occurred to me that we had just watched an audience of I guess around 3,000 people just outside of downtown Lowell nearly all pile into their cars and wait to get out of that garage. My guess is most were headed directly home. Anybody coming from Northeastern by public transit would've found they took the green line from school to North Station to get a commuter train to Lowell to...have to walk down Dutton Street's narrow sidewalks in the dark to get to the game, never really passing down a single major or attractive commercial street on the way? Not a good selling point. Now...what if the pie-in-the-sky plans to add some sort of commercial spaces along Arcand Drive and Cox Circle materialize? There would be a few nights during hockey season that they'd get extra business from the game alone. People going to Spinners games would drive past on their way to the ballpark, and maybe they'd stop, too. Is it enough of a draw to cause the buildings to get built? Alone? No way. Yet, look at the restaurant and bar density near the Garden or Fenway. Lowell is no Boston, but I bet we can do better than we are (look at the Kearney Square crowds when something is up at the Auditorium), and I know it's being discussed.