As Falcons Prepare to Fly, What Now for Springfield?
If the media reports are accurate, Springfield will soon be without professional hockey — and professional sports of any kind — for the first time in more than 50 years.
The Springfield Falcons have been sold, according to multiple reports, and it is very likely that the franchise will be relocated to Arizona. If that’s true, the question becomes, ‘what does Springfield do now?’
The natural reaction would be to say that the pursuit of a professional sports team — or another team — moves from something somewhere in the middle of the to-do list (a phrase that sums up the quiet efforts recently to attract the Red Sox’ Triple A farm team, which is still looking for a new home) to a real priority.
The theory goes that a city like Springfield needs a professional sports team to have an identity, to bring additional vitality to its central business district, and to make its arena or convention center profitable. And there are many that subscribe to that theory, including some here in Springfield.
But that’s just one theory. There are many cities that thrive without professional sports and don’t need it to have what would be called an identity.
Springfield is experiencing progress on a number of fronts — from MGM’s casino, to new manufacturing jobs, to a growing culture of entrepreneurship. If it continues to move forward in these areas, it’s easy to envision vitality without a sports franchise playing at the MassMutual Center, or anywhere else.
And in the meantime, the city may not really have a choice in this matter. While the Springfield Falcons have long been part of the city’s fabric — and BusinessWest presented its Difference Maker award to Bruce Landon for keeping hockey in the city for decades — one would have a very hard time making the case that Springfield, and this region, truly supported the Falcons. Having a legacy of hockey isn’t enough to make it work in this city.
We advise Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and his economic development team to address this matter with proper due diligence, and not pursue a professional sports team merely to secure dates for the MassMutual Center’s arena and to attempt to bring people downtown.
Moving forward, we believe that sports should just be one priority, and like other pursuits that fall in the category of economic development, it would have to make sense for all parties involved.
And that’s something that couldn’t be said of the Falcons and their recent history in the city.