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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The William D. Mullins Memorial Center was built on the campus of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1993. The arena was named after the local state representative who spearheaded the campaign to build a new facility to help grow the university's athletic program and assist in the university's overall growth. Unfortunately, Representative Mullins did not live long enough to witness the opening of the arena. The university honored his efforts by naming the facility in his honor.
Ice hockey has been played at the University of Massachusetts since 1908. The Minutemen played at the Division Two level until 1979, when the team was disbanded due to the lack of an adequate on-campus arena. During these "Dark Ages" of UMass hockey, the only team to represent the university was an unofficial club team. When the Mullins Center was built in 1993, the team returned, this time playing in Division One as a member of the Hockey East Conference. The Minutemen have qualified for one NCAA National Tournament, in 2007.
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The Mullins Center offers a decent variety of food choices for a mid-sized arena. There are eight permanent concession stands scattered around the inner edge of the concourse, which are augmented by a few portable stands during capacity events.
Stands are organized by their menu. UMass dining operates two stands, which feature Nathan's Hot Dogs and Legal Seafood Clam Chowder. Local favorites operate the remainder of the stands, including Famiglia Pizza, The Chicken Company and Baby Burk's Burgers.
Fans looking for healthier alternatives should head over to the stand run by Green Fields, where an assortment of salads and healthy snacks are sold. If you are looking for traditional (unhealthy) snacks, Maple Valley Creamery sells many flavors of ice cream, and Peet's Coffee and Tea sells assorted pastries to complement their gourmet beverages. Combo meals are available at many stands to help fans save a few dollars.
One of the great things about the atmosphere at a college hockey game is the presence of the pep band and student section. UMass represents well in both areas. Unlike many arenas, there is little piped in music played at the Mullins Center during play stoppages. Capably filling the void is the excellent pep band, running through a catalog of classics and current hits. The student section, who sit behind the visiting goalie for two periods, show up in decent numbers, although they don't make a whole lot of noise or add too much to the game day atmosphere. Perhaps UMass' recent lack of success has affected the students' enthusiasm.
Visitors to the Mullins Center will enjoy a professionally run game day presentation. Many minor league hockey staples are present here, including Chuck a Puck, Score-O and t-shirt tosses. Fans have the opportunity to win a seat upgrade to an over-sized lounge chair or giveaways from local establishments.
The Commonwealth Club, located at ice level behind the net opposite the student section, is a popular vantage point from alums and high rollers. There is no center scoreboard at the Mullins Center, instead there are twin video boards located at either end of the rink.
Amherst is consistently rated as one of the best college towns in the country. Downtown is located within walking distance of campus (well, walking distance for a college student), and is chock full of restaurants, shops, and things to do. With five colleges located in and around Amherst, the options are many and varied. Options range from traditional sports bars and national chains to African, Mediterranean and Oriental cuisine. Antonio's Pizza is a popular hangout among the student body, with a line that can run out the door during a busy weekend night.
Lodging choices in Amherst proper are somewhat limited, but with options in neighboring Hadley, you won't have to travel too far to find a place to stay after the game. For those wishing to eliminate the commute after the game entirely, the UMass Hotel and Conference Center is located at the center of campus, and is run entirely by students in the hospitality and tourism management program.
For those looking for more scholarly endeavors after taking in a game, the Amherst region boasts several museums, as any good college town should. Literary fans will find museums chronicling the works of authors ranging from Eric Carle to Emily Dickenson. Eclectic bookstores and quaint shops line Main Street, and the smell from the eateries up and down the street will make any mouth water.
UMass is one of the rare schools in New England at which hockey plays second fiddle to basketball in terms of support. The Minutemen average about 3,000 fans per game, good for middle of the pack nationwide. There is a solid turnout from the student body, although many students arrive late and leave early. Families make up a good percentage of the crowd, with a decent amount of locals and alumni mixed in.
The University of Massachusetts is located in rural Amherst. There are no highways that directly serve the UMass campus, but Route 91 is only six miles away. Springfield is located 16 miles south of Amherst, and is served by both Amtrak and the Peter Pan Bus Lines. The larger cities of Boston, Albany, and Hartford are all less than a two hour drive from campus. The closest airport is Bradley Airport, just over the Connecticut state line. If visiting the area during ski season, the fine resorts of Vermont's Green Mountains are only a couple of hours away.
The Mullins Center is located on the western edge of the UMass campus, a short walk downhill from the center of campus. Amherst Center is located a couple of miles away. There are numerous shuttle busses that carry students from campus to points throughout Amherst and nearby Hadley. Parking is plentiful and free in lots directly adjacent to the arena.
Visiting fans will have no difficulty getting around the Mullins Center. Concourses are spacious enough to navigate, even during intermissions. Fans are not able to view the rink while on the concourse, which completely encircles the arena. Several vomitories empty about halfway up the seating bowl, which consists entirely of individual maroon folding stadium seats. Rest rooms are clean and more than adequate for the typical UMass crowd.
Seats for Minutemen hockey games at the Mullins Center are split into two levels, with reserved (center ice) tickets sold for $15 and value (general admission end zone seats) tickets sold for $12. Purchasing tickets on game day increases the price by three dollars. Discounts of between two to four dollars are given to seniors and youth.
Parking in the lots next to the Mullins Center is free, and concession prices are in line with other venues in the area. Combo meals are sold at all stands to provide added value.
An extra point is awarded for the UMass athletic history on display at the Mullins Center. If you like banners, this is the place for you. Since the facility is shared by the men's and women's hockey and basketball teams, there are banners aplenty to be found. Conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances by all four teams hang inside the arena, while pictures of present players and famous alumni line the concourse.
Another extra point is awarded for the connection between the team and local community. Local youth teams are present throughout the rink, and fans can skate on the Mullins Center ice after Saturday night games. In addition, The Community Ice Rink, located next door to the Mullins Center, is available for local youth teams, figure skating organizations and the general public.
A final extra point is awarded for the use of the pep band for stoppage music rather than relying on piped in noise.
The Mullins Center is an excellent mid-sized facility. While the UMass hockey program is currently going through some struggles on the ice, their membership in Hockey East means that some of the top teams in the nation are regular visitors to western Massachusetts. While the small town of Amherst is located somewhat off the beaten path, it's worth a visit by any traveling hockey fans.
Follow Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
Member Review by puckmanri on Nov 14, 2013
The William D. Mullins Memorial Center was built on the campus of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1993. The arena was named after the local state representative who spearheaded the campaign to build a new facility to help grow the university’s athletic program and assist in the university’s overall growth. Before the completion of the Mullins Center, the Minutemen hockey team had been downgraded to club status due to the lack of an appropriate facility. Representative Mullins did not live long enough to witness the opening of the arena that bears his name, but this arena has spurred tremendous growth in not just the hockey team, but in all UMass varsity teams.
The arena is located on the southern edge of the campus, away from UMass’ other athletic fields, and closer to the center of campus. In fact, one can walk from the dorms on the northern side of campus to the Mullins Center in about ten minutes. Next door to the Mullins Center is a public skating rink, which is used by local youth hockey and skating programs, as well as the student body.
31 N Pleasant St
Amherst, MA 01002
10 University Drive
Amherst, MA 01002
31 N. Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA 01002
30 Boltwood Walk
Amherst, MA 01002
280 Main St.
Amherst, MA 01002
1 Campus Center Way
Amherst, MA 01003
345 N. Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA 01002