Saturday, September 24, 2011

Centrum, 50 Foster St., Worcester, MA

Capacity 12000

The Worcester Centrum opened in 1982 with a performance by Frank Sinatra.
It was a crisp, sunny evening in September of 1982 and Frank Sinatra was coming to inaugurate my hometown’s new stadium, “the Centrum.”  The building was a brightly-painted orange, monstrosity of early 80's architecture; a civic center that was the latest in a long series of schemes to “revitalize” the depressed downtown area of Worcester, Massachusetts, New England’s second largest rustbelt city. The large Italian-American population was a built-in Sinatra fan-base.  But beyond the paisans, it seemed that everyone of the World War II generation, who was lucky enough to get a ticket, was getting dressed to the nines to attend the show.  Every tuxedo shop in town was rented out to the last polyester stitch.
I had only a vague sense of who Sinatra was at that age. But I was always game to hop in the car with my dad and depart our boring suburban street to cruise downtown for what little excitement our dead city had to offer. There were ten times the normal amount of people out on the street that night. The energy was palpable.  All of the Boston television stations had their satellite trucks idling outside the venue. We circled the Centrum a few times to take it all in.  Our car was stopped at a traffic light when we saw a long, black limousine pull out of one of the back loading bays. My dad said, “I’ll bet that’s his car. You wanna follow it and see?” Of course I said yes. An hour before I had been sitting at home watching TV. Now I was on some kind of a chase. 
We followed the car over to the west side of town and up the hills that led to the Worcester Airport.  Our regional airport was a small whistle stop in those days.  It had a tiny terminal bordered with low wooden fences.  On balmy summer evenings in the summer it wasn’t unusual for people to pile in the car and drive up to the airport to watch the planes take off and land.  With its hilltop views of the city and the excitement of the limitless possibilities of transportation (especially to the blue collar families whose lives were often like the machine cogs they worked amongst in local factories) it made the airport a favorite destination of many. 
The limousine pulled in through one of the gates that led to the tarmac. I could see that there were a handful of middle aged women who had gathered just outside the gate. There seemed to be a few children among them, no doubt as in the dark as I was about the afternoon’s attraction but equally as welcoming of the diversion. Some of the kids and I exchanged knowing glances.
We got out of the car and waited.  When a small, cream-colored jet flared out, landed and taxied in by the hangar the suspense built. I was relieved. I was already beginning to to get bored and was progressing to thoughts of how I would convince my father to stop for ice cream on the way home.  The older women women in the crowd began to scream as the door to the jet opened.  I curled my fingers through the metal cyclone fence and could feel the movement as others along the fence pushed and pulled at it in excitement.  The jet’s door flipped down, extending stairs to the tarmac and a man in a gray suit, carrying a battered brown attache, stepped unceremoniously to the ground.  I was immediately disappointed that he looked so small and did not have some kind of movie star glow about him.  But it was then that I could feel the energy dissipate and overheard someone say, “It’s not him.” 
So we continued to wait.  At length another jet landed. And this one taxied past us and into a private hangar into which the limousine had disappeared. After a few minutes the car came creeping out of the hangar toward the gate. The diehard fans quickly realized all of their waiting might be for naught as the car was about to slip out the gate and pull away. In seconds the same obsessed middle-aged women channeled their inner delirious teen in the presence of a matinee idol crooner. I saw one push hard on a section of gate which gave way and opened enough so that the crowd could squeeze through. The crowd advanced forward and swept me along with them towards the car. 
A motor began to hum as the electric window slide open.  And I could see a few men seated in the back of the car.  People reached in over my head and shook the hand of the man I understood to be Sinatra.  I stuck my hand in and did the same.  He grabbed my small hand, gave it a quick shake and moved to the next.(4)
Frank was busy that year...
Sinatra with Liz Taylor Jan. 17, 1982

Ol Blue Eyes also opened this unrelated amphitheater in Altos de Chavon in 1982.

In 1938 he must have got busted for something.

The convention center addition was completed along with a renovation of arena infrastructure in 1997. This upgrade resulted in the facility's name change to Worcester Centrum Centre.
It is owned by the City of Worcester and managed by SMG, a private management firm for public assembly facilities.[1] The arena was expanded to 14,800 seats in 1989[2
The naming rights were purchased in 2004 by DCU, Digital Federal Credit Union.

Now known as DCU Center

Jerry performed here on
9/11/89 Jerry Garcia Band Clarence Clemons sits in (Bob Weir opened)
11/13/91 Jerry Garcia Band
11/15/93 Jerry Garcia Band

1.)^"MassMutual Center counting on fast start". The Republican. 2005-09-25.
2.)^"Centrum Center: Building on Success". Amusement Business. 1997-10-13.
4.)^Boffoli, Christopher, Cellar Door Blog,


  1. We saw the limo and entourage, with police escort and sirens, blow by our apartment heading up Elm St. to the airport after the concert. It really was quite a night.

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