by Amadeus Finlay
When Expedia included Worcester, Mass., in its list of 15 under-the-radar cities in August, it really hit onto something. Not only is Worcester a thriving, innovative city driven by a new generation of entrepreneurs, but in the shape of the DCU Center, it also boasts a state-of-the-art convention, events and meeting facility in the heart of its downtown. Amadeus Finlay took a trip to WooTown to speak to DCU Center’s AGM and Director of Sales Jim Moughan (pictured right).
ECN: Jim, Worcester is uniquely positioned at the crossroads of Providence, R.I., Boston, and Albany. What does the city’s position mean for the trade show, convention and events industry?
JM: Worcester is an ideal location for a number of reasons, not least of which is our central location to Massachusetts, New England and the Northeast as a whole. Eight million residents live within 75 miles of our downtown, and those cities not only include Boston, Providence and Albany, but also Springfield, Mass., Hartford, Ct., and Manchester, N.H. We are the only city in New England that has that central draw, and that is why we are known as the ‘Heart of the Commonwealth.’
Our ease of transportation is also a consideration that many meeting planners look at as well; the network of highways into Worcester from all over the Northeast is attractive as well as direct train service to and from Boston, and now Worcester will have direct air service to five major cities. In addition to our own airport, there are four other major international airports within a little more than an hour’s drive, serving more than 1,500 flights a day.
ECN: With all that connectivity, the opportunities must be great for larger firms with offices across the region. But what is it about the city’s experience that helps to sustain the demand?
JM: We are a more economical city than most in which to host events, meaning the cost of our meeting spaces, parking and overnight accommodations are, on average, less than most of the other locations in the region. Worcester also has an exciting restaurant and bar/lounge scene, many of which have opened in the past three to four years. This fresh, revitalized energy can be felt all over the city, echoing our impressive arts culture that has attracted the POW-WOW festival for three years running.
ECN: Let’s look a little more closely at the DCU Center itself. First off, what is the hall’s capacity?
JM: The capacity of the entire building is 14,500, but this is prior to any production. The exhibit hall can comfortably hold about 5,000 at the top end, and the grand ballroom around 1,200. In addition, tradeshow and conference users have found our facility very user-friendly and easy to navigate, both for vendors and attendees. Our experienced staff are long-term and are very knowledgeable about the building and the city.
ECN: A lot of impressive stats, Jim. What about show services?
JM: We are a total one-stop shop for all services needed for a tradeshow. That includes drayage, security, electrics, utilities and so on. We have a couple of different labor departments in the building, making us a full-service convention facility for any type of show. I’ll even wash a window if you need me to!
ECN: How about the shows themselves? Tell us some highlights.
JM: Some of the more prominent annual events we host include the annual Spring Home Show, Boat Show, Auto Show and the ever-popular RV and Camping Show. In addition, our Annual Brew Woo Craft Beer Festival held in the spring always sells out, and we are looking at adding a fall edition with more information to come.
ECN: A packed program indeed! How about resident attractions or special events?
JM: We are proud to be the home ice for the Worcester Railers Hockey Team, as well as the Massachusetts Pirates National Arena Football League. In addition, we will be hosting the annual Monster Trucks, Cirque Du Soleil, Harlem Globetrotters, Disney on Ice, as well as a number of big name concerts. The arena also hosts most of the Worcester area College Graduations. As for the convention center, there is a large number of annual events including, but not limited to, the Mass. Association of Phys. Ed. Teachers, Mass. Fire Chiefs Association, Mass. Hope, Mass. DOT Transportation, The Pilgrim Invitational Gymnastics Meet, Mass. STEM Conference, Core Mark and NECSA tradeshows. We are also the host facility for regional dance and cheer competitions that draw thousands of competitors and spectators from throughout the northeast U.S. and Canada.
ECN: With all that activity, how does the increasing growth seen across Worcester impact the DCU Center?
JM: The recent announcements in Worcester, such as the acquisition of the former PawSox baseball team and the breathless development of the Canal District and similar areas, are great for all of us. Everything that we do in this tight-knit community serves to bring more awareness to what is happening in all corners of Worcester, including the DCU Center. The city’s expansion is bringing new companies to the area, many of which will hopefully utilize our facility. In fact, we have already seen some events that have taken place due to investments in the Worcester market.
ECN: The future looks bright for Worcester and the DCU. What’s in the pipeline for the coming months and years?
JM: The city of Worcester owns the DCU Center and has always made, and continues to make, significant investments in the facility, including a new state-of-the-art Wi-Fi system that just went live along with an online service ordering system that will be activated this fall. As for events in 2019, look for the Massachusetts Pirates to return for a second year of exiting indoor football, along with some major events still to be named both in the arena and convention center.