A big major league baseball offseason event is being held in western Massachusetts for the first time.
Plans were announced Wednesday for the Boston Red Sox’s “Baseball Winter Weekend” to be held in downtown Springfield on January 17-18.
The hot stove fan festival is the organization’s biggest undertaking of the offseason, according to Red Sox President & CEO Sam Kennedy.
"Its a great way for the players to bond with each other, a great way for our alumnae to reconnect with one another and of course get together with our great fan base," said Kennedy.
Highlights of the event include autograph and photo sessions with current and former players, memorabilia displays, a town hall-style Q &A with team officials, panel discussions, and activities such as batting and pitching cages.
Held for the last five years at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, the change of venue is the result of a partnership struck earlier this year that had the Red Sox designate MGM Springfield as the team’s “official and exclusive resort casino.”
"There will be a completely different feel being in a city, in a downtown area," said Kennedy.
He said the team has a lot of fans and even employees who live in western Massachusetts.
" We're looking for a great weekend," said Kennedy.
MGM Resorts International and Major League Baseball also announced a partnership this year to promote sports betting, which has not been legalized in Massachusetts.
Most of the winter weekend events will take place at the MassMutual Center, which MGM manages.
MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said 8,000 baseball fans are expected to attend.
"The economic impact and scope of this event will extend beyond Springfield," said Mathis.
The event is not free. Tickets for the two days, which went on sale Wednesday, are $80 for adults and $30 for children age 14 and under. There is a discount for season-ticket holders.
Drawing business from the Connecticut casinos was one of the rationale for legalizing Las Vegas-style gambling in Massachusetts, a point alluded to at Wednesday’s announcement by Cathy Judd-Stein, Chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
" As I understand, for the past five years winter weekend has been growing more and more popular and it is now here in Springfield," said Judd-Stein.
The Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau has not yet calculated an economic impact for the Baseball Winter Weekend, according to bureau president Mary Kay Wydra.