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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. 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 basketball team, but in all UMass varsity teams.
The arena is located on the western 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.
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Longtime visitors to the Mullins Center will notice some changes to the concessions menu here. There are 9 permanent concession stands scattered throughout the concourse, as well as several portable kiosks. There are stands offering your basics, such as hot dogs, pizza, chicken fingers, and various snacks. For those desiring something a little different, Baby Berk Express offers a great variety of delicious burgers, and the Pita Pit offers several different sandwiches. Dippin' Dots and Paciugo Gelato run food carts at different points on the concourse. Coca Cola products are featured at all the stands, and alcohol is not sold at the Mullins Center, as is the case at all on campus NCAA events.
Fans looking to pick up some UMass souvenir items will be pleased to find a sizeable souvenir stand right inside the entrance to the arena, containing a good variety of UMass merchandise.
The game day atmosphere at the Mullins Center is a bit more laid back than you might expect from an on campus facility of this size. All the elements you typically find at a college basketball game are here, from an enthusiastic emcee to a good-sized pep band. The school's cheerleading and dance squads perform during timeouts, and there are promotions during selected play stoppages. With a capacity crowd and a rolling Minuteman squad, the Mullins Center can get really raucous. Unfortunately, with crowds that are significantly smaller than capacity, the overall atmosphere in the building deflates.
There are banners hanging from the rafters at the Mullins Center representing various conference championships won by both the Minutemen hockey and basketball teams. At the far end of the arena are five numbers honoring former UMass basketball greats, including the Minutemen's most notable athletic alumnus, Julius "Dr. J." Erving. There is no central video board here, but two video boards located at each end of the Mullins Center court.
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. Take a walk down Main Street and you can find restaurants ranging from African cuisine to French gourmet, from places specializing in brunch to sidewalk cafes. Antonio's Pizza is a favorite destination for UMass students, and the Amherst Brewing Company, located just down the road from the Mullins Center, offers a good variety of craft beers.
Lodging options in Amherst proper are somewhat limited, but with several options in neighboring Hadley, and with Springfield only 30 minutes away, 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 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 averages in the range of 4,500 fans for their home basketball games. The Mullins Center never seems to get more than 2/3 full, even for top ranked opponents. The largest crowds for games tend to top out at under 6,000 fans. If coming to Amherst during a weekday game, you will certainly have your choice of great seats from which to take in the action.
Particularly underwhelming is the representation of the student body. Despite the Mullins Center's convenient location on campus, the student body fills only a fraction of the seats reserved for them. They also don't add much of a presence to the game day atmosphere, as they lack any kind of cohesiveness present with so many student sections across the country.
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. Part of the attraction of the UMass Amherst campus is in its rural setting. Driving to Amherst in the fall can yield some spectacular foliage views, and is worth the trip all by itself. If visiting the area during ski season, the fine resorts of Vermont's White Mountains are only a couple of hours 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.
The Mullins Center is located on the western edge of the UMass campus. Even though UMass is a self-contained campus, Amherst Center is only a mile 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.
The Mullins Center is quite roomy, with wide concourses that are easy to navigate even during intermissions. Sightlines from all areas of the seating bowl are excellent. There is not a bad seat in the house. Restrooms are located throughout the arena, and large enough so that lines do not form, except during halftime. Those fans requiring handicapped access will have no problem getting around and will find plentiful seating about halfway up the seating bowl throughout the arena.
Tickets for Minutemen basketball games range in price from $15-$21. Ample parking is located directly adjacent to the Mullins Center for free. Concessions prices are comparable to other facilities in the area, and won't break the bank. For fans in western Massachusetts, a game at the Mullins Center is an affordable alternative to other minor league sports in the area.
The history of UMass athletics are on display at the Mullins Center. Banners hang on one end of the arena honoring legendary UMass basketball players, and pictures are hung throughout the concourse featuring UMass athletes who have gone on to professional careers in the NBA, NHL, and WNBA. More banners hang from the rafters of the arena commemorating UMass tournament appearances.
The Mullins Center is a modern facility which, given its location on campus, should provide the Minutemen basketball team with a tremendous home court advantage. Unfortunately, the team struggles to bring in sizeable crowds or garner a whole lot of support from the student body. As a result, the game day atmosphere is much more subdued and sterile than you may expect from such a large university. The Minutemen have qualified for postseason tournaments in each of the past three seasons, and is a program on the upswing. Hopefully with continued success the fans will return to Amherst.
You can follow all of Paul Baker's stadium and arena journeys on Twitter @puckmanri
Member Review by jmwerner on Apr 02, 2012
The William D. Mullins Memorial Center, which opened in 1993, is the home of UMass basketball and men’s ice hockey. Across the entry plaza is the Mullins Community Ice Rink, home to women’s ice hockey as well as various university and community skating activities. Seating 9,493 for basketball, the arena was built to replace the still-standing Curry Hicks Cage, which dates back to the 1930s. Beyond hosting sporting events, the Mullins Center is also well-known for being one of the largest indoor concert/event venues in western Massachusetts, with acts ranging from Sesame Street Live! to Kanye West to Metallica to Phish having performed there.
31 N Pleasant St
Amherst, MA 01002
10 University Dr.
Amherst, MA 01002
280 Main St.
Amherst, MA 01002
1 Campus Center Way
Amherst, MA 01002
345 North Pleasant St.
Amherst, MA 01002
423 Russell St.
Hadley, MA 01035