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Giant Center

Hershey, PA

Home of the Hershey Bears

4.4

3.9

Giant Center (map it)
550 Hersheypark Dr
Hershey, PA 17033


Hershey Bears website

Giant Center website

Year Opened: 2002

Capacity: 10,500

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Hershey Kisses

The Hershey Bears have quite a bit of history to fall back on . Founded in 1932, the team is the oldest continuously-operating professional ice hockey team in North America, outside of the "Original Six" of the National Hockey League. Originally known as the Hershey B'ars and once even as the Hershey Chocolate B'ars, the team is also the oldest member club of the American Hockey League.

The Hershey Bears Hockey Club is a wholly owned sub-division of the Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company, an entity administered by the Hershey Trust Company. The Milton Hershey School is funded by that trust.

The team has also won quite a lot during their history, having won 11 Calder Cups and 22 conference championships.

The town of Hershey was started by Milton Hershey as a place for his employees to have comfortable homes, inexpensive public transportation, a quality public school system and extensive recreational and cultural opportunities. The town is still a quaint and pleasant place.

On the outskirts of the town sits the area surrounding Hersheypark. For the sports fan, the Hersheypark Arena is a notable venue on this area, as well as Hersheypark Stadium (and, of course, the Giant Center). Originally known as the Hershey Sports Arena until 1972, the historic 7,286 arena opened in 1936 and was home of the Bears until 2002. Lebanon Valley College ice hockey and Shippensburg University ice hockey still use the arena for home games, as well as being used as a public ice rink. A 2012 fire damaged parts of the arena’s roof, although luckily, no substantial damage occurred.

The Giant Center opened in 2002. Built by Populous, the same developers of the new Yankee Stadium in New York and Wembley Stadium in London, it is owned by the Derry Township Industrial and Commercial Development Authority. The arena also was the home of the Harrisburg Stampede indoor football team for one season in 2014 and is a major concert venue for the region.

4.4

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    5

There are many options scattered around the Giant Center concourse. One of my favorites is the Aroogas Wing Shack. A half-dozen wings are $8, with a combo for $14.75.

Soda is $3.50 and $5.50 around the arena.

Hot dogs ($5), popcorn ($3-$5.50), pretzels ($3.50), cotton candy ($3.25) and French fries ($3-$6.50) are some of the other options.

I also like the Uncle Andy's pretzel stand, where $4.25 gets you a very good pretzel.

There are a few beer stands, with a nice variety of specialty brews. Prices vary, depending on the standard or craft beer option.

The variety of food around the arena is quite impressive. There is nothing minor about the Giant Center in this regard.

Atmosphere    5

The arena invokes memories of the old Hersheypark Arena. You can almost close your eyes and forget you are in a new arena. But even with your eyes open, you will witness a fantastic old hockey barn kind of arena. It really takes the best of the old and mixes it with new, modern amenities.

The arena's interior also feels light and bright compared to many darker arenas. The sightlines and sound are all just excellent. It is one of the best arenas built in decades. It just has that near-perfect "feel" to it.

Team mascot Coco the Bear roams some of the lower concourse engaging kids and adults alike. His presence works well and does not interfere with the game action.

There have been some complaints that the arena needs a new scoreboard, as the one that has been in the arena since opening day offers none of the cool features that newer ones offer, such as the one seen at Santander Arena in Reading. And it doesn't. But the main scoreboard is still in great shape, offers the necessary stats and game information. Its older video system still holds up well. So there is no need to put the arena down because of the scoreboard. If in 10 years the original scoreboard still is in use, that may be a different story.

Neighborhood    4

There just happens to be a major amusement park located right next door to the arena. That makes this neighborhood different than the standard sports arena. It also means that you will not see the usual assortment of neighborhood bars and restaurants that an urban arena may have. But that does not mean this is still not a great neighborhood.

Your first stop should be the Troegs Brewery on Hersheypark Drive. Offering guided and self tours, as well as a great tasting and food room, the Troegs folks make you feel at home.

If you're looking for more standard dining options, then you will find a Red Robin and Fuddruckers all in the area. I might suggest checking out a lesser-known option, the Parkside Bar and Grill (3 E Derry Rd Hershey, PA 17033), as they have some great burgers and other bar food options.

Fans    5

This is one of the most knowledgeable hockey fan bases I have ever witnessed. No matter the age or sex of the fans, they know the rules of the game and are loud at all times. This is a wonderful and intense place to watch a game.

Access    4

Hershey is located not too far from Interstate 81 and 83 via Route 322 and other smaller roads. This means that access is pretty good, although if numerous events are all happening in the area, one should expect some traffic. One should also expect that the traffic heading back towards Harrisburg will be heavier than in other directions.

Route 743 off of Route 322 turns onto Hersheypark Drive and is the main drag outside the arena and Hersheypark.

There is plenty of parking in the large lots between Giant Center and the amusement park. You will never have trouble finding a space, although $12 is not the cheapest parking option around.

Once inside the arena, the concourse can be pretty tight and crowded.

Return on Investment    4

The AHL is a high-quality league, so the price range of $21 to $27 for basic seats is pretty standard. Coupled with the parking fee, the game is a fair value.

Extras    4

Chocolate World is almost certainly a required stop before a game. Stop in and take the free ride that displays the processes involved in chocolate production. And you get a free candy sample afterwards, so it is a win-win. Then try to tear yourself away from the food and souvenir options as you head to the game. Of course, a chocolate shake handmade here is a no-risk proposition.

Of course, if Hersheypark is open, it may be worth a trip to the amusement park prior to a night game. The historic park has numerous great rides and attractions that will suit a fan of any age. Sky Rush, The Great Bear and Lightning Racer are amazing roller coasters.

If you can find a way into Hersheypark Arena, there is an amazing sense of history. Not only the former home of the Bears, the arena was also the site of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962. The arena is open for some public ice time, as well as the home of Lebanon Valley College ice hockey and Shippensburg University ice hockey, so look for those as ways into the venue.

I also like the Hershey Kisses used as part of the arena signage around the concourse of the Giant Center. That is something you don't see everywhere.

Check around the arena for other displays and acknowledgements of the long and storied history of the Hershey Bears. Very few teams have the amount of history enjoyed by this team.

Final Thoughts

Giant Center is frankly one of the best sporting venues around. It takes the best looks and atmospheric elements of the past and adds the modern amenities expected by today's audiences. This arena is a must visit for a sports fan.

As I Hershey Bears season ticket holder I have to make a few points to make sure people get the entire story. You left out key information about the game you attended that influenced the energy and emotion of the game.

The Bears clinched a playoff berth weeks ago and were not playing for anything during the game you attended...which was the last regular season game of the year.

In addition...many of the Bears top players were not even dressed for the game. Which makes it hard to "get into" the game. If the team isn't trying to win (which they aren't if they sit many of their top players) then the fans aren't going to cheer constantly and get real into it.

Also, Hershey fans know what the regular season means. Nothing. The Bears have been playing since 1938 and have only failed to make the playoffs 11 times. They have won 11 cups and lost in the finals another 10 or so times. The team has made the Calder Cup finals 4 of the last 5 years...winning 3 times.

Sure some other arenas might cheer like crazy every single night of the season. But that might be because they don't get to feel what important games are like.

I am not trying to suggest that Hershey fans are perfect or even great. Some don't know the first thing about hockey but if you are going to criticize the environment and the fans then at least know what the situation is.

As for tickets...Hershey has around 7-8,000 season ticket holders. Meaning that more than likely some of them didn't show up but guess what...they are still part of the paid attendance. The listed attendence is 10,500 but I believe last season they got 11,006 fans in for game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals.

And I don't see how you can blame Giant Center and take its rating down because Ticketmaster charged a convencience charge. Tickets to Bears games aren't badly priced.

The parking is expensive...no argument there.

Mascot...Coco generally stays down in the lower bowl. He spends all game walking around the concourse, coming down the stairs, and entertaining the children. Unforunately one mascot can only get to so many places so I don't think he gets to the upper deck very often.

I am not for one second assuming that Giant Center is better than most NHL arenas or even plenty of other AHL arenas but to criticize the fans and the atmosphere without giving the facts of the game is frustrating to read.

by gregmann27 | Apr 19, 2011 08:12 AM

Fans

I was at a Wilkes-Barre/Scraton Penguins home game the same weekend and they had clinched a playoff game almost a month before the Bears did, yet fans were way more into their game than the Bears fans were. I just received your personal email and I may try a playoff game if I can find the time.

Some of the information you gave me here and in the email are really good, like the attendance record info. That is usually the kind of stuff I get from the media relations person, but I didn't get much of a response on that side.

As for Ticketmaster, I'm not sure if the AHL makes teams use them or not, but there are ways they can just hide the fees into the cost. The actual cost wasn't bad, but if I am being charged for convenience online, then offer me a way that is "inconvenient" so I can save that fee. I couldn't find one, that's all.

by collegiatestdms | Apr 19, 2011 08:51 AM

Fans response

For anyone else reading this and these comments...it is true that Wilkes-Barre had clinched a spot much earlier but what you have to keep in mind is the opponent for that game....

The Hershey Bears.

These teams are rivals and the fans generally get more into games if a rival is playing rather than a team like the Syracuse Crunch who before this season wasn't even in the same division or conference as the Bears.

Try going to a Yankees vs Red Sox game and then come back for a Yankees vs Royals game. It is that kind of comparison.

by gregmann27 | May 18, 2011 10:42 AM

Giant Center

Simply put....Giant Center is a mecca of all things AHL, all things Hershey Bears, and all things hockey! It's because of the masses of fans that this team has been going for 75yrs now! Yes, tickets are expensive, parking $ is brutal...but everything else exceeds all expectations!

by MDinTX | May 09, 2013 03:06 PM

Best Fans in Hockey

I am surprised to see that you gave the fans a 2 in your review. They are a loyal bunch who continuously fill out the arena. Yes, they can be obnoxious towards the visitors, but they leave and breath hockey in this chocolate town. The games that I have attended, they were raucous, knowledgeable and were not afraid to let the referees know how they "truly" felt about a penalty. It was a much different aspect compare to some of the other AHL venues, where fans are in constant state of boredom and vapidness. Perhaps you were there on a lackluster night, but attend another game, and you may see what the others are talking about!

by JasonJamez | Jan 22, 2014 08:26 AM

visiting fan

Been to Giant center several times, as a fan of the opposing team. The home crowd wasn't particularly raucous, but definitely into the game. Haven't seen fans being vulgar or nasty like I have in other venues. And they do have their signature chant after the Bears score.

The barn itself is just plain sweet. I can't say from experience if it's the nicest one in the AHL, but I wouldn't be surprised.

by morehockeyinpa! | Mar 04, 2014 09:20 PM

FYI

The Hershey chocolate company has nothing to do with the Bears, the arena, the stadium or the amusement park. Those are all owned by Hershey Entertainment and Resorts. Totally different company that sends all of its profits to the Hershey school.

by Weatherman2111 | Oct 27, 2014 09:48 PM

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Crowd Reviews

Hershey Kisses

Total Score: 3.14

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 2
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 2
  • Extras: 3

The Giant Center is a newer arena, with ground being broken on November 8th, 2000 and seating around 10,500 for hockey. It is home to the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals. The Bears are a tradition rich team with 11 Calder Cup Championships to their credit. The team, along with the Giant Center is owned by the Hershey Chocolate Company and is located at the edge of Hershey Park, essentially across the parking lot from all of the other Hershey attractions. The Giant Center is a real nice facility, but read the review for a full look at the game day experience.

Great fans in Hershey

Total Score: 4.14

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 4

Don't know what game you were at, but I had the opportunity to go to a playoff game and the crowd was into the game (be it was a first-round game). I loved going to the Old Hershey Park Arena and Hershey has some of, if not the best, hockey fans in minor league hockey.

Impressive arena for the area

Total Score: 4.43

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 4

Was surprised to see such a modern place. I was expecting to see the old Hersheypark Arena just with a new name but this place is a great new arena. Parking is easy and I enjoyed our afternoon rooting on the Bears.

Hershey Fans

Total Score: 3.43

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 2
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 2
  • Extras: 3

Hershey fans are great. The only thing that is lacking is the neighborhood. Unless you're going to an amusement park, their is nothing.

The Pinacle of Minor League Hockey

Total Score: 4.00

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 2

If you ever want to truly attend a special place for minor league hockey, then Hershey, Pa., is a must for any traveler. In the AHL where many arenas are built for NBA teams, the Giant Center is the perfect setting for the game of hockey. The crowd is a dedicated brass who have been supporting the team since 1937 and the focus here is hockey. If the fans do not agree with a call, they will let the refs know about it. The Bears are among the tops of hockey attendance in all of minor league hockey year after year. Also, if you have a little extra time, visit their former home the Hersheypark Arena that is the Fenway Park, Lambeau Field and Wrigley Field of hockey.

"Anyone who is anyone has played in Hershey"

Total Score: 4.00

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 4

While the Giant Center lacks the history of its predecessor, this arena takes a back seat to no other in the AHL. With its curved roof designed to evoke memories of Hersheypark Arena, this rink houses the most rabid fanbase in the league. Do yourself a favor and sit in the lower level. Anyone over 150 pounds will find fitting into the upper level seats problematic, to say the least.

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Local Food & Drink

The Chocolate Avenue Grill  (map it!)

114 W Chocolate Ave

Hershey, PA 17033

(717) 835-0888

http://www.chocolateavenuegrill.com/

Troegs Brewing Company  (map it!)

200 East Hershey Park Dr

Hershey, PA 17033

(717) 534-1297

http://www.troegs.com

Parkside Bar & Grill  (map it!)

3 E Derry Rd

Hershey, PA 17033

(717) 534-1774

Local Entertainment

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