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Official Review by Joshua Guiher, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. They play in the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Park. The Arena opened in November of 1999 as the Penguins made their debut in the AHL. The arena has seating for over 8,000 people for hockey events.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Most of the food and beverage at the Mohegan Sun Arena is your standard stadium concessions. Popcorn came in two sizes ($3 or $3.50), pretzels ($3.50), funnel cake sticks ($4.50), nachos grande ($5), and they also offered Cracker Jacks ($3) and various other candy ($3). For more substantial food, the main items were pizza, pub burgers ($6), chicken fingers ($6), crispy chicken sandwich ($5.75), gyro ($5), meatball hoagie and cheesesteak ($5.75). Regular fries were $3.50, family fries were $7.50 and cheesesteak fries were $5.50.
Soft drinks were Coke products and came in two sizes, small for $3 and souvenir for $4.50. Bottled soda and bottled water were both $3 and the arena also offered coffee, hot tea and hot cocoa all for $1.75. Alcoholic drinks were Mike's Hard Lemonade for $5.75 and beer in both bottles and on draft for $5.50.
The one unique item they had was called The Beast. It was 8oz of Roast Beef in au jus, cheese sauce with bacon, horseradish sauce and crispy onion straws on a Kaiser roll. It came with a bucket of house-made kettle cooked chips seasoned with old bay. The cost was $10 but was probably the best food bargain at the arena. There was also a kids area near section 227 that had a cotton candy machine and a make-your-own pixi stix station.
The atmosphere at the game I attended was very good. Everyone seemed to really be into the game and enjoying the activities during stoppages in play. The night I was there was also customer appreciation night, and no fan went home empty handed. The basic give-a-ways were coupons for free food at the local McDonald's and tickets to the ARCA race at the nearby Pocono Speedway. Other prizes included hats, t-shirts, a blu-ray player and TV's. Personally I won the ARCA tickets, so that's always nice.
Tied in with the ARCA promotion was an appearance by two race car drivers. During the first intermission the drivers rode cooler scooters around the ice in a one lap race. One of the drivers also had two cars on display and was signing autographs outside the arena before the game despite the fact it was raining. The other intermission was human bowling with two contestants getting shot across the ice at blow up pins by a giant sling shot.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area is a metropolitan area as the two towns have basically grown into each other. As with any city area, there are good parts and not so good parts. The arena is built in one of the better parts, located in an area that is growing quickly with the recent addition of casino gaming in Pennsylvania. This influence is fairly obvious since the arena is named after the local Mohegan Sun Casino.
One popular local restaurant is the La Tolteca, a Mexican restaurant with an extremely large menu.
If Mexican food isn't your thing, then you could try the Arena Bar & Grill. It is an award winning restaurant with a real nice menu. They also have 50 beers on tap, 250 different bottled beers and 101 Martinis.
The fans were really into the team and the game. If anything, they were a little too much into the game, consistently letting the refs know if they felt they made a bad call with a "these refs suck" chant. The fans also had plenty of positive chants for their team as well but the ref chant is the one that really stuck out.
The arena was only about 90% full, surprising for a team that sells out a good number of games, especially with it being fan appreciation night. A very large number of the fans were wearing Penguins jerseys, although it looked like most were from the Pittsburgh Penguins rather than the local team.
The arena is located right off of I-81 and had the best traffic flow I have ever experienced at an arena. There were two lanes in from each direction and the cops did a great job of letting things flow. On the way out, traffic was five lanes and moved very quickly. Parking was also free, which was nice because the sign said it cost $5. Try to park close to the arena if you can, as the upper portion of the lot is dirt and was a bit messy with the rain.
Once inside the arena, bathrooms were easy to find and had plenty of room. Unfortunately, once inside the arena, all of the goodwill gained through the parking quickly disappeared. The concourses were a little tight, and the end of the arena between sections 221 to 227 was insane. The walkway was only wide enough for two people max making it very hard moving through that area. The arena is nice, but getting around had its challenges.
Also, they were really strict with camera size and I saw multiple people turned away for having too big of a lens. I managed to sneak mine in by hiding the large lens, but was quickly confronted by another fan who had to return his camera to his car. Luckily the usher in our area let me continue to take photos. I find it ridiculous that you aren't allowed to use a decent camera to remember the game.
The ticket price was $18 face value, but after Ticketmaster and arena fees, it cost me $25.50. I'm not a fan of extra ticket fees being added on so I tried to call the ticket office, but was informed that the fees applied to phone orders as well. To me, if it is mandatory that I pay the fee, then please just increase the ticket price and hide it in there.
Also, the ticket office had outside windows and inside windows. Since it was raining out the night I went, they were using the inside windows, but it was very tight and you had to go back out into the rain to enter the arena. Not a very efficient design.
Overall, the experience was worth the price and I didn't mind paying the $25.50, I just prefer for things to be more upfront for ticket costs. The talent level was great and the arena is fairly new.
The give-a-ways were really nice and the fans I talked to seemed to enjoy what they were winning, even if they were not racing fans and didn't plan on attending the ARCA race. The staff was also really helpful in getting kids hats and t-shirts for their give-a-way item despite what the child may have actually won.
The kids also seemed to really enjoy interacting with Tux the Penguin who visited various sections around the arena and posed for pictures with all the kids who asked.
I really had a good time and enjoyed seeing the top AHL team in action at home. The arena is worth the visit, especially if you know to avoid the one end. Even from my seat in the top section, I had a great view of the action. A visit to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza is worth your time, even if you are not a fan of the Penguins.
Member Review by WPGJetsFTW on Sep 30, 2012
I am a Penguins season ticket holder and the arena doesn't exactly enthrall me.
The food choices are rather lacking. Recently they added a Tim Hortons, which is nice. Gotta add some hockey coffee lol. But anyways, your best bet is to grab food at another restaurant. Usually I either go to Red Robin, La Tolteca, or the Quiznos that's within walking distance.
Atmosphere has really been lacking recently. There are some good nights - mostly playoff games and rivalry games - but other nights I like to call the Mo the "Mohegan Sun Funeral Home."
The neighborhood was drastically improved thanks to the arena. Most of the area where you find restaurants and stores (other than the mall) did not exist when the arena was built in 1999. The abundance of restaurants locally heals the lack of food.
The fans themselves are usually kind in nature. I've pulled for the visitors a couple times (St. John's because they're affiliated with my favorite NHL team) and I didn't really get any trouble. Maybe it's just because everyone knew me, but still.
Access...ugh. Getting into and out of the arena always means getting caught in a slow line, especially on high-attendance game nights.
The arena's tickets IMHO are overpriced for such a large (by AHL standards with NBA arenas notwithstanding) arena with declining attendance. But, the quality of hockey is nice, and other than the corner upper deck seats in the visitors' attack zone, there really aren't any bad seats.
Extras: Music selection is abysmal, always the same stadium Jock Jams crap that got old ten years ago, and on top of that, the acoustics flat-out SUCK. The arena just got a new jumbotron, replacing the old, poor-quality one. Mascot Tux is one of the more fun mascots I've seen, and definitely surpasses his parent club's penguin mascot. Concourses are narrow, worn, and dated, causing major congestion in between periods, especially behind the 112-113 area where there is a small team store called The Igloo.
Overall, I'm more prone to give it a low score, partially because I sit in it 22+ times a year and know the place probably as well as my own home.
380 Coal St
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
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