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UMass to Enhance Fan Experience with Mullins Center Upgrades
AMHERST — UMass Amherst, along with Global Spectrum, one of the nation’s leading public-assembly-facility management companies, recently unveiled plans for a series of renovations at the school’s Mullins Center, a 10,000-seat, multi-purpose entertainment and sports venue, designed to enhance the fan experience. Renovations include the installation of new, dynamic LED sports lighting for the arena and new upholstery for 3,594 seats. Additional, 7,705 seats will have cup holders installed. Universal Electric Co. and Ephesus Lighting have been awarded the bid to replace the existing high-intensity-discharge lighting with LED sports lighting. Ephesus focuses on commercial, industrial, and entertainment lighting that is vibrant and sustainable. With the new lighting in place, fans in the Mullins Center or watching events on HDTV will have a brighter, sharper view of the performance. In addition, the LED sports lighting will cut the venue’s energy costs by 50% to 75% for each event. The new upholstery in all padded seats will provide an upgraded appearance and more comfort. Finally, patrons at every permanent seat will have a secure place to put their drinks. The entire project is expected to be completed by the beginning of August. “These building enhancements are going to take our fans’ experience to a new level,” said Brian Caputo, assistant general manager and director of Operations at the Mullins Center. “Our new partnership with Ephesus Lighting and the upgraded seats will jump-start the 2014 sports season.”

Gaming Commission Revises Licensing Schedule for Casinos
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently released a revised schedule for licensing up to three casinos in the Commonwealth. In Western Mass., the commission still anticipates announcing whether MGM Resorts International gets approval for a Springfield casino on June 13. In Greater Boston, the commission anticipates deciding whether Wynn Resorts’ Everett project or Mohegan Sun’s Revere proposal will get the sole license by Aug. 29 at the earliest or Sept. 12 at the latest. In the southeastern part of the state, the commission expects to complete the application process by late September and issue a license in early 2015. MGM Resorts International is the sole company contending for the sole gaming license to be awarded in Western Mass. after city officials favored the project over a proposal by Penn National Gaming, and after residents of West Springfield and Palmer voted to reject gaming developments by Hard Rock International and Mohegan Sun, respectively. MGM has proposed an $800 million project in Springfield’s South End.

Employment Picture Improves in Massachusetts
BOSTON — The state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for April dropped in 20 labor-market areas and rose in two areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the year, unemployment rates fell in 21 areas, and one area remained unchanged. The preliminary statewide unadjusted unemployment rate estimate for April was 5.6%, down 1.0% from March. Over the year, the statewide unadjusted rate was also down 1.0% from the April 2013 rate of 6.6%. During April, all 12 areas for which job estimates are published recorded seasonal job gains. The largest job gains were in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Springfield, Barnstable, Worcester, and Framingham areas. The seasonally adjusted statewide April unemployment rate, released on May 15, was 6.0%, down 0.3% over the month and down 1.0% over the year. Springfield’s unemployment rate fell to 8.9% in April from 10.2% in March on both an increase in the number of people working and a shrinking labor force. The city’s unemployment rate was 10.4% a year ago. As a region, Greater Springfield saw a one-month employment gain of 1.9%, a gain of 5,600 jobs for a new total of 292,000.

State Marks Completion of Pittsfield Armory Energy Project
PITTSFIELD — State officials recently joined military and public-utility representatives to celebrate the completion of an energy-efficiency project at the Pittsfield Armory as part of the Commonwealth’s Accelerated Energy Program (AEP), and to recognize the effects of energy projects at several Pittsfield court facilities and the Berkshire County House of Correction. The AEP was launched by the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) in 2012, with the goal of initiating energy-efficiency projects at 700 state sites in 700 days. To date, energy projects have already been completed or initiated at 535 of these sites. “The partnership between DOER and DCAMM is yielding significant results for state agencies and helping us meet the Commonwealth’s energy, environmental, and economic goals,” said DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia. “The AEP investment of more than $12 million in the Berkshires is taking a serious bite out of electricity and natural-gas use, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.” Added DCAMM Commissioner Carole Cornelison, “the Accelerated Energy Program has helped to define Massachusetts as a national leader in energy efficiency and conservation, having put in place projects that are already yielding $4.3 million in annual savings. In addition to extraordinary savings, the economic and environmental benefits of projects like this will have a lasting and significant impact across the Commonwealth.” The armory is one of 29 state facilities in the Berkshires and one of 39 military sites across the Commonwealth undergoing energy-efficiency retrofits under the AEP. The $90,000 Pittsfield Armory project is expected to reduce energy consumption by nearly 59% and lower energy bills by 57% each year, while eliminating more than 40 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually, a 58% reduction. It includes the installation of high-efficiency lighting, lighting controls, occupancy sensors, vending-machine controls, high-efficiency electric motors, and energy-management-system upgrades. The project will receive more than $17,000 in Mass Save incentives from Northeast Utilities and Berkshire Gas and will reduce energy costs by more than $10,000 per year. Energy-efficiency projects at the 39 military sites across Massachusetts will result in annual energy-cost savings of more than $265,000 and reduce GHG emissions by about 890 metric tons, equivalent to the emissions from 185 cars. Across the Berkshires, the AEP will invest more than $12 million in energy-efficiency projects at more than two dozen state sites, resulting in annual energy-cost reductions at these facilities of more than $900,000. Efficiency projects are taking place at a diverse range of facilities, including courthouses, community colleges, offices, transportation depots, and police stations. “I’m passionate about energy-efficiency initiatives and cannot be more pleased to learn of this partnership, which will yield tremendous savings throughout our city,” said state Sen. Benjamin Downing, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy.

Patrick Administration Launches Solar Initiatives
BOSTON — The Patrick administration recently announced it is accepting applications for the second phase of the Commonwealth’s RPS Solar Carve-Out Program, referred to as SREC-II. The program is designed to meet the governor’s goal of reaching 1,600 megawatts of installed solar capacity by 2020. “I am proud of the work we have done together to make Massachusetts a leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and emissions,” Patrick said. “This program will allow the solar industry in Massachusetts to continue to flourish and make solar energy more accessible for businesses, municipalities, and homeowners across the Commonwealth.” The new program aims to ensure steady annual growth, control ratepayer costs, and encourage ground-mounted solar projects on landfill and brownfield sites and residential rooftop solar. “The solar industry in Massachusetts has seen tremendous success since Gov. Patrick took office in 2007,” said state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan. “There is now more than 140 times the amount of installed solar than there was in 2007, and SREC-II will continue our efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, create clean-energy jobs, and make Massachusetts more energy-independent.” Incentives from the first phase of the SREC program led to the broad adoption of solar across businesses, homes, and institutions and helped to grow the amount of solar from 3 megawatts installed when Patrick first took office to 496 megawatts today. In 2013, Massachusetts met the governor’s initial goal of 250 megawatts four years early. Currently, 349 of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns have at least one solar installation. In January, the Patrick administration announced the creation of a residential solar loan program, expected to launch in late summer or fall 2014 to complement SREC-II. “This program extends Massachusetts’ leadership in solar energy as well as our efforts to address climate change. It further illustrates that doing the right thing for the environment is also the right thing to do economically,” said state Sen. Benjamin Downing, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy.

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