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NBA Finals Brings Another Big Boost To Businesses Around TD Garden

As the Boston Celtics prepare for Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night against the Dallas Mavericks, bars and restaurants in the area are gearing up for the crowds of fans coming to cheer them on.

A crowd of Celtics fans outside TD Garden for Game 1 of the Celtics-Heat first-round series.

The bars that line Canal and Causeway streets have always been well served by the foot traffic that comes from TD Garden, especially during the NBA and NHL playoffs. Local property owners and residents say these playoff games make the area much livelier, and with two consistently strong teams in the Bruins and Celtics, they are hopeful they can keep getting this bump year after year. 

"Every playoff game for either the Celtics or the Bruins is a big boost to the local economy," said Julius Sokol, one of the managing owners of Sullivan's Tap and Scores near TD Garden. "We wake up every day hoping they make it to the finals."

Sokol's Scores, formerly The Fours, opened its doors in May 2023, while the Celtics were in the conference semifinals, though the Bruins had already exited in the first round. This year, the Bruins made the second round, and the Celtics made it to the finals for the second time in three years. 

If this series goes to Game 7, it would be in Boston on June 23, marking more than two months of playoff games.

On Tuesday, Mayor Michelle Wu and Celtics ownership announced TD Garden would host watch parties during away games for the first time ever. They are selling tickets for $18 — to mark the fight for the Celtics' 18th banner — and offering discounted food and parking. Canal Street will also be closed off to vehicular traffic for the first four finals games.

"This is an exciting time in our city to gather together and cheer on the Celtics. The Celtics watch parties at the Garden will be a memorable and unique way for families and fans to catch the away games and show our community spirit," Wu said in a statement.

Around TD Garden, businesses and property owners have been preparing for a playoff run for months. 

Boston Properties owns a 50% stake in the Hub on Causeway, a 1.5M SF mixed-use project that opened in 2019. On the ground floor is the 18-stall Hub Hall food hall, which opened three new vendors in April ahead of the playoffs, the Boston Business Journal reported

Ticket prices for the Celtics-Mavericks series have hit an average of $4,150, a record high for an NBA Finals, the BBJ reported. But the fans shelling out thousands of dollars won't be the only ones descending on the neighborhood's bars and restaurants. 

"Every year when a team makes it to championship or the finals, even fans who aren't going to the stadium still come down to support the team, so it's really been great in prior years," Sokol said. "When you make it this deep in the playoffs, everyone comes out."

While this may be the neighborhood's busiest time of the year, businesses say the arena has also driven offseason traffic in recent years. 

Scores and Sullivan's Tap on Canal Street

TD Garden is set to break its record for the number of concert and nonsports bookings this year, the BBJ reported. The stadium expects to host 90 such events in 2024, up from 82 the year prior.

"The Garden does a really great job of booking out a large part of the summer for events," Sokol said. "People come in all the time. Being steps from the Garden is a really big advantage."

While the arena has proven to be a consistent traffic driver, the neighborhood still isn't seeing the same level of daytime activity from office users it benefited from before the pandemic. 

Some businesses that used to rely on office traffic are now opening later, closer to game times and nightlife. West End Johnnies, a restaurant and bar on Portland Street, used to open at 11 a.m. but now opens at 4 p.m. 

"There are some [bars] that are either only opening around game time or only open much later now, post-Covid, because there isn't as much office traffic," West End Civic Association President Sebastian Belfanti told Bisnow.

Developers and property owners are also pushing to build more residential and other developments to bring more activity to the area beyond the arena traffic. 

Newton-based RMR Group has pushed for a new zoning initiative in the Bulfinch Triangle, the neighborhood just across the street from TD Garden, to allow taller buildings, more housing and new design measures to make the neighborhood livelier.

There have also been a handful of projects proposed to convert struggling office buildings to other uses. Rhino Capital Advisors plans to convert a vacant office building at 110 Canal St., which sold in December for 40% less than its 2021 price, into an 81-room hotel. And developer Greg McCarthy filed plans in April for an office-to-residential conversion project on Portland Street.

"That specific project, I think basically everyone, at least that I've spoken to about it, has been very happy with it," Belfanti said of Rhino's 110 Canal St. proposal. "It brings more people into a building that's more or less vacant right now."

Some residents in the neighborhood have pushed back on rezoning efforts due to their potential effects on historic buildings and the types of uses that would be proposed. Most residents, however, do want to see more housing built in the area, as well as support for local businesses, Belfanti said. 

"There is a real desire to see development in the Triangle that both brings energy to it and is positive for the businesses but is also respectful of the significant historic structures that are there," Belfanti said.