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  • Paul Baker

Mullins Center – UMass Minutemen Basketball


Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

William D. Mullins Center 200 Commonwealth Ave Amherst, MA 01003


UMass Minutemen men’s basketball website

William D. Mullins Center website


Year Opened: 1993

Capacity: 9,493

 

Minuteman Hoops


The William D. Mullins Memorial Center was built on the campus of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1993 at a cost of $51 million. 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. It currently serves as home to the Minutemen men’s and women’s basketball and hockey teams.


Prior to the building of the Mullins Center, the basketball team played their games at the Curry Hicks cage, a 4,000-seat venue that was built in the 1930s. While it was known as one of the loudest buildings in the northeast, it was sorely in need of replacement.


In 1900 the first basketball game was played at the Massachusetts Agricultural College (changed to the University of Massachusetts in 1948). Known throughout their history as the Statesmen, Aggies and Redmen, the school officially changed its nickname to the Minutemen in 1972. UMass has qualified for nine NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Final Four in 1996, The NCAA later vacated this appearance due to rules violations. Nine Minutemen alumni have played in the National Basketball Association, most notably Hall of Famer Julius Erving.


Food & Beverage 4


The Mullins Center has an impressive array of concessions for a mid-sized arena. Several stands line the inner edge of the concourse, each with a different theme and menu. All the arena standards such as hot dogs, burgers, pizza slices and chicken tenders can be found here. Fans looking for something a little different can enjoy some BBQ with mac & cheese and corn bread or a slice of “pickle pizza.” Some items can be combined as combo meals to save a few dollars. Fans looking to satisfy a sweet tooth can choose from a variety of ice cream from Maple Valley Creamery or pastries at the Corner Café.


Coca-Cola products are featured at the Mullins Center. A selection of beer is available, featuring several national brands alongside brews from local favorites Sam Adams, Wormtown and Harpoon Breweries. Copa Wines and Spiked Seltzer are also sold. New this season is a collaboration with nearby Amherst Brewing made especially for the athletic program.


A complete listing of the Mullins Center concession options can be found here.


Atmosphere 3


At most college basketball games the student section and pep band are the engine that drives the gameday atmosphere. While the pep band at Mullins Center is solid, support from the student section is negligible. One entire end of Mullins Center is set aside for the student body, but it sits mostly empty for basketball games.


It’s a shame, because the staff at UMass put on a good show. Sam the Minuteman roams the arena interacting with fans and contests are held for fans when play stops. The UMass spirit squad finished second in the 2023 nationals but are severely underutilized. The Mullins Center would provide a significant home-court advantage if it were packed with fans.


The centerpiece of the experience at the Mullins Center is the giant videoboard that was hung over center court in 2018. There are additional video boards on either end of the arena that display game stats. With three large video boards inside this mid-sized arena, it almost feels like taking in a game at a sports bar. There’s a screen everywhere you look.





Neighborhood 5


Amherst is consistently rated as one of the best college towns in the country. Amherst Center is about a mile and a half from the Mullins Center and is chock full of restaurants, shops and museums. With five colleges located in and around Amherst, the options are many and varied. From quaint book shops to museums celebrating the works of Emily Dickinson and Eric Carle to art galleries and libraries, the area around UMass has something for everyone. Visiting fans looking for something to eat before or after a game will find no shortage of options along Main and Pleasant Streets. UMass students swear by Antonio’s, home of some legendary greasy pizza slices. For a complete listing of things to do, places to eat and lodging options in Amherst visit AmherstDowntown.com.


Just up the road from Mullins Center is the town of Hadley, where many more dining and shopping choices are located. Most of the eateries in this area consist of chain restaurants and fast food options. The Hangar Bar and Grill, a popular campus hangout with numerous craft brews on tap, is located near McGuirk Stadium.

There are lodging options near UMass in both Amherst and Hadley. With Springfield only a half hour 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.


Fans 2


UMass fans are a fickle bunch, tending to stay away from the Mullins Center unless the Minutemen are having a successful season. Small crowds seem to be the norm in recent seasons. In the 2022-23 season UMass is averaging about 3,000 fans per game, less than half the Atlantic-10 average. Those fans who do show up are generally on the reserved side, making the Mullins Center a rather quiet place to catch a basketball game.


Conspicuous by their absence is the student section. The large seating sections reserved for the students sit mostly empty. There are a few die-hards who try to create some noise, but their efforts fall flat in this mostly empty venue. With the UMass hockey team enjoying a successful run, including a national championship in 2021, it appears that much of the student body has focused their attention on the ice rather than the hardwood.





Access 4


The University of Massachusetts is located in rural western Massachusetts, about a half hour north of Springfield. There are no highways that directly serve the UMass campus, but Interstate 91 is only six miles away if traveling from the north, south, or west. If traveling from the east, the Mass Turnpike (Interstate 90) will bring you about 20 miles from campus. Take exit 63 (Palmer) off the turnpike and follow the signs along the winding country roads to downtown Amherst and the UMass campus. Although the drive from the Mass Pike to UMass takes about a half hour, the foliage during the early part of the basketball season is amazing and draws many tourists throughout the fall. It’s well worth it to take your time and enjoy the scenery.


Springfield is located 16 miles south of Amherst, 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 ski resorts of Vermont's Green Mountains are only a couple of hours to the north.


Once you arrive at UMass, it’s not too difficult to get to Mullins Center. The arena is located on the western edge of campus near many of the school’s other athletic facilities, including McGuirk Stadium and Earl Lorden Field. There is basically only one road that serves the arena, but traffic moves pretty well into the adjacent parking lots.


Most fans will enter Mullins Center on the north side of the facility and enter onto a concourse that completely encircles the court. Concession stands and rest rooms line the inner edge of the concourse. Lines do form at halftime so plan your trips wisely. The court is not visible from the concourse. All seats consist of maroon padded stadium seats which feature excellent views of the action from all sections.


Return on Investment 5


Tickets to UMass basketball games are quite affordable, ranging in price from $16 to $26. Parking is free in the lots located a short walk from the facility. Concession prices are a bit on the high side, particularly for specialty and premium items, but are not out of line with other venues in the area. Fans looking to save a few dollars on food can purchase a combo meal.


Extras 3

A pair of extra points are awarded for the sense of history around the Mullins Center. Photos of notable Minutemen hockey and basketball alumni line the concourse. Photos of notable recording artists to perform at Mullins Center, such as Elton John and B.B. King, are also featured.


Inside the arena hang banners honoring Minutemen conference championship teams and tournament appearances. Additional banners honor the squad’s Elite Eight and Final Four appearances. Retired number banners also honor Minuteman legends.


Outside the Mullins Center stand four statues, honoring Jack Leaman, John Calipari, Julius Erving and Marcus Camby.




Final Thoughts


The Mullins Center is an attractive on-campus facility that serves as home for the UMass Minutemen basketball and hockey teams. Unfortunately, with the lack of crowds present, the atmosphere suffers accordingly. Hopefully a return to the top of the Atlantic-10 standings will bring the fans back to Amherst.


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



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