The DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts (that’s pronounced “Woostah” by locals) is celebrating its 20th season as an AHL arena in 2014-2015. Before the arrival of the Sharks in 2006, the IceCats called the DCU Center (previously called the Worcester Centrum) home for 11 years from 1994-2005.
The DCU Center underwent a series of renovations beginning in 2009, which took place over the next four summers. These renovations touched all areas of the arena, from the ice floor and chillers to the electrical system, new dashers, and installation of new seamless glass. Other improvements targeted the concourse, concession stands, restrooms, suites, and club seats. Renovations were completed in time for the 2013-2014 season.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are many concession stands and portable carts located throughout the DCU Center. Somewhat surprisingly, many of these locations offer the same menu. Fans looking to satisfy a sweet tooth at the DCU Center will not be disappointed, as there are multiple locations to purchase snacks, such as popcorn ($5), cotton candy ($5), fried dough ($6.50), and snow cones ($5). Bottles of Pepsi products are available for $4.25.
Fans looking for something a little more substantial will find all the basic arena food here at selected concession stands, such as hamburgers ($6.50), hot dogs ($4), sausage sandwiches ($4), pulled pork sandwiches ($5.50), and chicken sandwiches ($5.75). Some unique items can be found at the main concession stand by the front lobby, including meatball skewers ($5), salads ($6), bratwursts ($5), and something called a walking taco ($4.75).
Two of the more popular places for fans to hang out are the lounges located at either end of the rink. The Bud Light Lounge offers a full bar along with menu items such as chicken wings, pizza slices, and quesadillas. There are several tables set up here for fans to sit, relax, and enjoy their food and drinks. The Coors Light Cold Zone features a deck that hangs right out over the ice, and full bar service. It's a popular hangout for Sharks regulars.
Fans looking for adult beverages will find many choices throughout the arena, including Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, and Miller Lite for $6.75 per bottle. Wine is also sold at the concession stands ($6.25), and mixed drinks are available at both lounges.
The Worcester Sharks do not have a team store at the DCU Center, but there are two areas on the concourse dedicated to selling a wide variety of Sharks gear. Despite the lack of a physical store, these concession stands are very well stocked.
If you attend the DCU Center when the Providence Bruins are in town, you may experience a much different atmosphere than when any other team is here. Boston is only 40 miles to the east of Worcester, and the great majority of people in this area are Bruins fans. Thus, when the Bruins farm team is in town, many people come to root for the visitors, and the atmosphere can get pretty lively.
On many other nights, the DCU Center can be a pretty quiet place to catch a hockey game. All your typical minor league hockey elements are here, including lots of loud music and pregame pyrotechnics. There is an in-game emcee who tries to keep the crowd involved with giveaways and contests, most notably the pie-eating contest, but the DCU Center crowd seems sadly disinterested at times.
The DCU Center blocks off large sections of the arena with curtains, reducing capacity from 14,800 to 7,230. The arena was not originally designed for hockey, and the sightlines from many of the seats suffer from odd angles and the low slope of the seating bowl. On the plus side, the seats in the 200 level harken back to the old days of the Boston Garden, as they are much closer to the ice than in most arenas. In the days before nets safeguarded the ends of professional hockey arenas, fans in these seats were sitting ducks for deflected pucks.
Downtown Worcester has a reputation as a rough area, but the area around the DCU Center has undergone many changes and improvements in recent years. Fans can feel safe walking in the area around the arena, and there are several restaurants and night clubs for fans to choose from in the immediate area. Pizzeria Uno's is a popular choice among local fans, and the wait staff get into the spirit by donning Sharks shirts on game days. For fans seeking a more upscale dining experience, Viva Bene offers fine Italian cuisine right across the street from the DCU Center.
Located about a mile from the DCU Center is Shrewsbury Street, home of Worcester's acclaimed "Restaurant Row." Over forty eateries, shops, and salons can be found on this stretch of road. It's a popular destination for visitors to the city, and offers choices from upscale to working class.
Worcester, despite being the second largest city in all of New England, is hardly considered a destination city. Most visitors to the area will pass through Worcester and proceed on to nearby Boston, Providence, or during hockey season, the ski resorts of the Green or White Mountains. Wachusett Mountain and Ski Resort is located only ten miles outside of the city.
Worcester has consistently ranked in the bottom fifth of the league in attendance over the past several seasons, averaging around 3,500 fans per game. Given Worcester's proximity to Boston, their affiliation with distant San Jose certainly doesn't help these attendance figures. Factor in that the hometown Bruins farm club is located just 45 miles to the southeast, and you can see why the team struggles to draw fans at times. If you are planning to come to a game against Providence (which happens often due to the regional nature of the AHL schedule), prepare to see Sharks fans in the minority, as the DCU Center becomes a sea of black and gold.
Fans in this part of the country are hockey fanatics, and Worcester is no different. Although the fans here seem to sit on their hands more than many of their local brethren, they know their hockey. Big plays and perceived bad calls from the referees will get the fans into the game in a hurry. With four AHL teams located within an hour's drive of Worcester, it's not unusual to see many visiting jerseys mixed in the crowd.
The DCU Center is easy to get to, located just off of Interstate 290 in downtown Worcester. Taking exit 16 (MLK Boulevard/Downtown Worcester) will drop you off within a quarter mile of the arena. Parking garages and surface lots are plentiful in the immediate vicinity of the DCU Center, as is a decent amount of on-street parking.
Recent renovations to the arena targeted the perpetually crowded concourses of the DCU Center. To this end, the former box office and lobby were incorporated into the main concourse, and a new box office was built. Fans now enter directly from outside into the main concourse. While these renovations did little to expand some of the narrow hallways, the new paint and windows installed give the feel of more room, and are a most welcome change.
There are several small bathrooms scattered throughout the building, with two large bathrooms located at the far end of the arena, across from the Coors Light Cold Zone. While lines can form at the small restrooms during intermissions, the larger, newer bathrooms provide ample facilities for all.
Tickets for Worcester Sharks games range in price from $9-$25, with a surcharge if you purchase tickets the day of the game. These prices are generally in line with other hockey venues in the area. The Sharks sell tickets only in the lower bowl and the first 3-5 rows of the 200 level. There are curtains which block off the remainder of the seats, reducing capacity from the 14,800 seats in the building to 7,230 for Sharks games. Many fans will purchase cheaper tickets in the 200 level and simply move to an open area closer to the ice. In addition, the Sharks offer many special package deals to save Sharks fans a few dollars. Check the website for details on these deals.
There are many options for parking in the area around the DCU Center, and experienced visitors to the arena can save a few dollars with some comparative shopping. There are several surface lots in the area, which charge between $5-$15 for parking. If you don't mind a short walk, the lot on MLK Boulevard near the 99 Restaurant is the one for you. Other lots are closer to the arena, but will cost more. Likewise, there are two parking garages adjacent to the DCU Center to choose from. The garage on the Convention Center side of the building charges $6 to park, while the garage on the DCU Center side charges $10. Again, it's up to the individual fan whether the extra cost is worth the walk. Long-time Worcester hockey fans avoid these decisions entirely by finding on-street parking in the vicinity of the arena.
Prices for food and beverages are what you would expect for an arena in the northeast. Overall, a game at the DCU Center is an affordable alternative for Boston area hockey fans looking for a break from NHL prices.
Extra points are awarded to the many and varied promotional efforts of the Sharks' staff. In addition to the giveaways, promotions, and ticket deals present for almost every game are nightly 50/50 and jersey raffles. Saturday night games feature an autograph session during the second intermission by a couple of Sharks players, and on selected nights some of the Sharks players show up at the nearby Uno's Pizzeria to act as celebrity waiters after the game.
New England is one of the more hockey-crazed areas of the United States, and this fact may actually hold Worcester back from being a more successful location for minor league hockey. Being located 45 minutes from Boston makes selling an affiliation with distant San Jose a difficult task, especially with the Bruins farm team a mere 45 minutes away in the opposite direction. Recent rumors of franchise shifts in the American Hockey League can't help.
Recent renovations to the DCU Center have transformed this tired, cramped arena into a more comfortable, modern facility. Originally built to give touring bands an alternative to the antiquated Boston Garden in the 1980's, the DCU Center now serves as an alternative to Boston hockey fans looking for relief from the high prices of the TD Garden. While not the most aesthetically pleasing place to take in a hockey game, it's still worth a visit for any dedicated hockey fans passing through New England.
Sitting right in the middle of Downtown Worcester is the DCU Center, home to the Sharks of the American Hockey League. When the building opened as The Centrum in 1981, there was no hockey on a regular basis until the expansion IceCats started in 1994. After nearly a decade in town, they moved to Peoria and in 2006, Cleveland's AHL franchise moved to Central Massachusetts. Given the right circumstances (games against rivals, Saturday Nights) it can be a fun place to watch hockey, otherwise, the building is plain and quiet.
25 Major Taylor Boulevard
Worcester, MA 01608
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Worcester, MA 01608
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