Big Thunderbirds game means big business for downtown Springfield

Win or lose, the crowds the team has been drawing in is a victory for downtown Springfield businesses.
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2022 at 6:40 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Wednesday night is do-or-die for the Springfield Thunderbirds. They must beat the Laval Rocket to advance to the Calder Cup Finals. Win or lose, the crowds the team has been drawing in is a victory for downtown Springfield businesses.

As the Thunderbirds gear up for a decisive Game 7 in the AHL Eastern Conference Finals, businesses near the MassMutual Center prepare for what it sure to be a busy night.

“When you’re talking about a game like this, which is the final game, it definitely is going to bring a lot of people in the city. The more people in the city means more people in the restaurant,” said Nadim Kashouh, owner of Nadim’s Downtown Mediterranean Grill.

Don’t expect to get into Kashouh’s popular downtown restaurant Wednesday evening without a reservation.

“It’s always the case. We turn people away, sadly to say, but you know, we can serve as many as we can,” Kashouh added.

In business for 22 years, the past several have been tough as the hard-hit hospitality industry works to bounce back from the pandemic. Despite now offering a sign-on bonus and four-day work week, Kashouh struggles with staffing.

“…But not only that, it’s the price of everything that keeps going up and this is kind of chewing out the bottom line for us,” Kashouh explained.

Another main street business owner is also looking for help.

“It’s very hard to find somebody, basically. I really need one,” said Audrin Desardouin, owner of L&A Fine Men’s Shop.

Desardouin needs to hire a tailor. Right now, he does all sales and sewing himself, including outfitting local hockey players. Four came in just Tuesday for pre-game attire.

“I have a bunch of them that come in. I had a couple of the coaches that came in, not only this week, but every time they have a game, they come in,” Desardouin added.

Picking out a tie on Wednesday was Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin, the commercial real estate company that manages One Financial Plaza, also known as the MassLive building.

“I put music on the speakers outside the plaza so that all the people who are coming by the building can see that there’s a lot of activity and that there’s a vibe in Springfield,” Plotkin explained.

Plotkin told Western Mass News the team drawing in crowds helps raise awareness of what’s downtown, including the growing dining district.

“I think sports teams have a way of building loyalty to a city and to a place,” Plotkin added.

He said if the T-Birds can keep up their winning ways, the momentum will far outlive this historic playoff run.

“It’s going to galvanize the community to be supportive of Springfield and their team and everything else that we have to offer here,” Plotkin said.

Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m. at the MassMutual Center.