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  • Paul Baker

DCU Center – Worcester Railers



Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

DCU Center 50 Foster Street Worcester, MA 01608

Worcester Railers website

DCU Center website


Year Opened: 1982

Capacity: 14,800

 

Off The Rails

The DCU Center was built in the early 1980s as an alternative venue to the aging Boston Garden. Many national touring acts had stopped including Boston on their tours due to the inadequate facilities at the Garden. Worcester, located 47 miles west of Boston, is the second largest city in New England and was considered a suitable location for the new arena. Since opening, the arena and adjoining convention center have hosted numerous sporting events, concerts, trade shows and conventions.


After years of hosting minor league hockey with the Ice Cats and the Sharks, Worcester was without hockey when the Sharks moved to San Jose as part of the American Hockey League’s western migration of 2015. Into the void stepped the ECHL, which granted the city of Worcester an expansion team that began play in 2017.


The Railers have qualified for the playoffs once during their first three seasons in the ECHL, losing in the first round in 2018.


Food & Beverage 4

Not all of the DCU’s concession stands are opened for Railers games, but there are enough points of sale open to ensure short lines that move quickly. The menu does not stray far from standard arena fare, with hot dogs, burgers, pizza slices and chicken tenders comprising the bulk of the menu. Portable stands augment the menu, offering pizza slices (Slice Slice Baby), meatball subs (Cousin Sam’s) and nachos (Nacho Mama’s).


Pepsi products are featured at the DCU Center. Fans looking for an adult beverage will find a good selection of national brands. Fans of craft beer should head to the Craft Beer Corner, which features a selection of beers from throughout New England. The “Off the Rails Lager” is brewed specially for the Railers by Bay State Brewery.

Bud Light Lounge at DCU Center. Photo by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Atmosphere 3

The atmosphere at a Worcester Railers game will be very familiar to veteran minor league hockey fans. The expanded lobby at the DCU Center is put to good use, with an inflatable shooting cage and team store. Trax, the Railers mascot, will often be found here posing for pictures with fans.


During the game the team puts on a good show, with contests for fans during play stoppages, hype videos on the scoreboard and t-shirt tosses. The Railers booster club sponsors 50/50 and other raffles every game, as well as trips for fans.


Neighborhood 4

Many visitors may not know this, but Worcester is the second largest city in all of New England. The DCU Center is located right downtown in the Central Business District. While Worcester has historically been viewed in a less than positive light, it is a city on the rise, with many things to do and see. While not considered a college town, there are eight colleges within Worcester city limits.


While Worcester as a whole has many fine options for dining, options are a bit slimmer in the immediate vicinity of the DCU Center. Local chains 99 Restaurant and Uno’s Pizzeria draw the largest crowds around game time. The Hilton Garden Inn and Holiday Inn Express are located nearby. Many Railer fans will head to Off the Rails, right behind the DCU Center, for a pre or postgame drink or snack.


Fans willing to branch out and explore the city of Worcester will be rewarded with many great options. Worcester’s famous “Restaurant Row,” aka Shrewsbury Street, boasts over 40 restaurants, ranging from fine dining to casual joints, brew pubs to diners and everything in between. With many shops also located on this drag, it’s a great place for a stroll and some window shopping on a nice summer day.


Worcester made a big splash in the national sports scene with the construction of Polar Park, home of the Worcester Red Sox, the top farm team of the nearby Boston Red Sox. The ballpark, built at a cost of $159.5 million dollars, is the most expensive minor league ballpark ever constructed. The new ballpark, located about a mile from the DCU Center, is the anchor of the up-and-coming Canal District. Fans looking for dining options will find many choices in the area. During the hockey season, The Holy Cross Crusaders play football nearby at Fitton Field along with basketball and hockey at the Hart Center.


Fans 3

Attendance at Railers games has remained fairly steady over the team’s first four seasons, averaging around 4,000 fans per game, which puts the team in the league’s top ten. Despite the Railers’ presence in Boston Bruins territory, the team draws decent crowds to the DCU Center.


As is the case for most minor league teams, a Railers crowd consists of a base of hardcore hockey fans (there are a lot of them in Central Massachusetts), supplemented by families and groups. The presence of many younger fans gives the DCU Center an energetic vibe.


Access 4

Before you even arrive at the DCU Center, plan ahead. The venue has a very restrictive bag policy. Bags are not allowed into the arena. Nothing larger than a wristlet is allowed. Check the bag policy and Covid policies here.

The DCU Center is located in the Central Business District of the city of Worcester. Located just two blocks from Interstate 290, the arena is easily accessible via exit 16. Parking is available in several surface lots in the area, as well as a parking garage across the street from the main entrance. There is plenty of on-street parking in the area for those who want to search for it.


Railer fans will enter the DCU Center by the arena’s main entrance on the corner of Foster Street and Major Taylor Boulevard. The newly redesigned entry plaza features a statue of longtime Worcester resident and Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy, which was dedicated in June of 2021.


With the small size of the typical Railers crowd, getting around the narrow DCU Center concourse is not an issue. Lines at the restrooms and concession stands are not a problem, either. Even when all stands are not open, you will not have to wait to purchase snacks. The team operates a merchandise area in the old lobby of the arena.


Even with the majority of the upper deck seats on either side of the arena blocked off with curtains, there is plenty of room to spread out at a Railers game. The lower bowl features a very gentle slope, which makes some viewpoints less than ideal for hockey. All seats are folding stadium chairs with cupholders.


Return on Investment 3

Tickets to Railers games start at $15 for upper-level end zone seats, with prices increasing to $35 for lower-level seats at center ice. Purchasing tickets on game day increases all ticket prices by an additional two dollars. The team offers several ticket packages which offer group discounts and added value with food vouchers. Check the Railers website ticket center for more details.


Parking is plentiful around the DCU Center, with lots and garages around the facility starting at six dollars. There is on-street parking available for fans who wish to search for it. Just be careful of when city meters are in operation. Concessions are priced comparably to other arenas in the area.


Extras 2

An extra point is awarded for the new statue of longtime Worcester native and Holy Cross alumni Bob Cousy, located in the DCU Center’s entry plaza.

DCU Center Entry Plaza. Photo by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


A second extra point is awarded for the Railers’ active booster club, which conducts several raffles and events throughout the season.


Final Thoughts

Worcester was long thought of as a second-rate player in the New England sports scene, losing out on the coveted affiliations with the Red Sox and Bruins that have traditionally gone to teams representing Providence and Portland. That all changed when the Pawtucket Red Sox announced they would be moving to central Massachusetts. When the American Hockey League moved out of the city, the ECHL wasted no time in moving into Heart of the Commonwealth.


The DCU Center is a solid, if unspectacular place to catch some quality minor league hockey. Despite losing their American Hockey League franchise, this hockey-crazed area has welcomed AA-level hockey with open arms in the form of the Railers.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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