If you are a sports fan, Berkshire County may be as good a place as any to live in the next several years. That’s because, no matter which way you turn, you will be able to attend NCAA Division I tournament events.
Albany, N.Y., which has hosted numerous NCAA basketball and hockey tournaments, is back on the docket with men’s and women’s tournament action coming to the Times Union Center, along with the return of the NCAA Division I hockey tournament.
And for the first time in almost two decades, Western Massachusetts will host an NCAA Division I hockey regional.
The University of Massachusetts and American International College — the region’s two Division I hockey programs — will co-host the regional in 2024. The regional will be played at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield. The arena is the home ice for the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League, and to the AIC men.
“We are incredibly proud to partner with American International College and the MassMutual Center for a 2024 Regional,” UMass Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “We have been privileged to see firsthand the passion that fans in this region have for college hockey, and we are looking forward to playing a part in hosting a first-class event in Springfield during one of the most exciting weekends on the college hockey calendar.”
This marks the first time the MassMutual Center has ever hosted an NCAA hockey regional.
It is also the first time that the NCAA has come to the arena since it hosted the NCAA Division II Elite Eight Tournament back in 2011. That was the final time Springfield hosted the Elite Eight.
Along with Amherst, Providence, Omaha, Neb., and St. Louis will host regionals. The Frozen Four in 2024 will be played at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Officials at the Times Union Center also announced this week that there would be additional Men’s and Women’s Basketball along with Men’s hockey coming to the building, which is about an hour from Pittsfield.
“The Times Union Center is honored and excited to be selected to host both Men’s and Women’s Basketball and Men’s Ice Hockey. Having two Championships cancelled this year due to COVID-19, we are thrilled to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” TU Center general manager Bob Belber said in a separate statement We have a great relationship with the NCAA as well as the MAAC, ECAC, Siena College and Union College. We look forward to working with all of them to bring these historic championships back to the Capital Region.”
The first of the events actually comes in 2022, under the previous awarding of bids. Albany and Worcester will be hosting hockey regionals. The two cities are paired up, and will again host regionals in 2026.
Basketball fans might remember that the Times Union Center was supposed to host the first and second rounds of the Division I men’s tournament this past March, but did not when the NCAA shut down the winter tournament schedule. The NCAA got Albany back into the mix as quickly as it could.
The Times Union Center will host first and second-round games in the 2023 tournament. Albany is one of eight cities to get firstand second-round games. The 2023 East Regional championship will be played at Madison Square Garden.
The 2022-23 school year will be busy for anyone who wishes to drive maybe as much as 90 minutes from Pittsfield. The NCAA Division III women’s basketball Final Four will be held at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. The University at Albany will be hosting an NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse quarterfinal series at Casey Stadium.
Things are just as busy in the 2023-24 academic year. TD Garden will host the 2024 men’s basketball East Regional, as it did in 2018.
Women’s basketball will have not one, but two NCAA Division I regionals in Albany. That’s due to a change in the tournament structure.
“This bid cycle was significant for Division I women’s basketball, as we were able to identify two outstanding future host cities for the Women’s Final Four in 2025 and 2026 and named the eight regional host sites that will be part of our new two-site regional format that is in play beginning in 2023,” Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women’s basketball said in a release from the NCAA.
Trinity will host the NCAA Division III men’s hockey Frozen Four in 2024.