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Local venue makes world ranking

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD The MassMutual Center hasn't been open for a year and already it's made a mark in the world of entertainment and convention venues.

"Venues Today" magazine has ranked the Center as number 81 in the top 100 entertainment and convention venues worldwide.

Based on total ticket sales, in the first half of 2006 the Center had a total ticket revenue exceeding $1 million with 60,276 paid customers.

Ben Gibbs, a spokesperson for the Center, said the ranking didn't come as a surprise.

"We had high expectations of being up there with the premiere venues in the country," he told Reminder Publications.

The Hartford Civic Center was ranked 50th with 82,231 paid admissions and the DCU Center in Worcester was 58th with 79,095 tickets sold.

In the listings, Springfield came ahead of the entertainment and convention venues in Cologne, Germany; Sydney, Australia; Greensboro, NC; Austin, TX; and Detroit, MI;

Gibbs attributed the ranking to the quality of the events the Center has presented along with support from the city government and the western Massachusetts public.

The Center has had sell-outs with performances by Martina McBride, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Larry the Cable Guy as well as the "Dora the Explorer" traveling show. The Center has also had good attendance with the Motley Crue concert, Disney on Ice and the Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The building is also home to the Springfield Falcons AHL hockey team.

Gibbs said that up-coming events at the Center include country music superstar Alan Jackson on Sept. 21; the "Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard" show on Oct. 4; and "Sesame Street Live" Oct. 12-15.

Gibbs added that NBC would be taping a Halloween special at the Center on Oct. 4. "Halloween on Ice" stars Nancy Kerrigan and will be broadcast nationally on Oct. 28.

The MassMutual Center is owned by Massachusetts Convention Center Authority James Rooney, the Authority's executive director, said "receiving recognition as a top 100 venue is a terrific accomplishment for Springfield and sends a clear message about the MassMutual Center's bright future."