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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Apparently, people in northeastern Pennsylvania like long names. After all, the top farm team of the Pittsburgh Penguins contains two cities in their name. Likewise, their arena’s name is quite a mouthful. The Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, in existence for less than 20 years, has already had more than its share of monikers. Initially named The Northeastern Pennsylvania Civic Arena and Convention Center, the building has also been called The First Union Center at Casey Plaza and The Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza before entering into a 10 year naming rights deal with the nearby Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs racetrack and casino.
The Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins are the primary tenant of the facility. The team has enjoyed quite a bit of success in their time in the American Hockey League, reaching the Calder Cup finals three times in their short history.
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".
The Mohegan Sun Arena offers an impressive menu for a mid-sized arena. Fans attending Penguins games can choose from several stands, each offering unique menu items. Stands operated by local favorites Sonic (hot dogs, shakes, slushies, and popcorn chicken), Chickie & Pete's (crab fries, chicken cutlets and cheesesteaks), and Revello's Pizza line the concourse. Other options include Center Ice Grill (burgers, chicken sandwiches & cheesesteaks), Frank 'N' Steins (hot dogs), and Power Play Pizza complete the lineup.
In addition, portable carts offer items such as Dippin Dots, nachos, burritos, ice cream, snow cones, kosher hot dogs, roasted nuts, and Tim Horton's. Craft beers from local breweries Old Forge Brewing Company, Susquehanna Brewing Company, and Dogfish Head are sold as well. Fans seeking non-alcoholic beverages can choose from a variety of Coca-Cola products.
New to the Mohegan Sun Arena is the Stix Sports Bar, located behind section 119. Featuring seating that overlooks the arena floor, this sports bar features several high-definition televisions, and sells craft beers and mixed drinks to thirsty hockey fans.
The signature concession item at Mohegan Sun Arena is the Roast Beast, sold at the Lion's Den concession stand. This sandwich contains 8 ounces of Roast Beef in au jus, cheese sauce with bacon, horseradish sauce and crispy onion straws on a Kaiser roll. It comes with a bucket of house-made kettle cooked chips seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning. Also sold at the Lion's Den are a wide variety of craft beers from Wilkes Barre's own Lion Brewery.
There is a small team store on the concourse which sells a variety of Penguins merchandise. The Penguins, although they share a name with their parent club, sport their own unique logo featuring a muscular penguin, which has proven to be a very popular one around the league.
The Penguins offer your standard minor league hockey experience, complete with loud music, in-game giveaways, and between period shenanigans. If you are at a Penguins game, one aspect of the in-game experience that you certainly cannot help but notice is Tux, the Penguins' mascot. Tux is one of the more entertaining mascots in the league, and has a wide repertoire of gags and skits to keep fans entertained. If you show up wearing an opponent's jersey, be warned that Tux will find you, and subject you to some good-natured ribbing. Many a visiting fan has left Mohegan Sun smelling like popcorn after getting a bucket of the stuff dumped over their heads by Tux.
Despite Wilkes Barre's location close to both Philadelphia and New York City, this city seems to have fully embraced the Penguins. The crowd is a sea of black and gold, and the fans in this corner of Pennsylvania know their hockey. The crowd here can get really loud when the building is full, and it gives the Penguins a definite home-ice advantage. Wilkes Barre has a reputation as a tough place for visiting fans to visit, but fans here are welcoming to out-of-towners (except maybe if you are coming in from Hershey).
The area around the Mohegan Sun Arena has been built up significantly since the opening of the facility in 1999. There are several hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers within a short distance of the arena. Unfortunately, the area is not an organic neighborhood that can be accessed by foot, or where you can simply park your car and explore. The neighborhood is a hodge-podge of strip malls and developments that have gone up piecemeal over the years. Thus, while there is a ton of activity around the Mohegan Sun Arena, this is not a cohesive neighborhood that would earn higher marks.
Fans traveling to Wilkes Barre will be pleased with the proximity of several hotels to the arena, as well as numerous restaurant options nearby. Most of the eateries here are national chains, which may make the area a bit less attractive to foodies. Still, some local favorites can be found among the clutter. La Tolteca is a popular Mexican restaurant with an extensive menu, and Stations Grill is a highly rated sandwich shop and deli. The Wyoming Valley Mall is less than a block away from the arena. Fans looking for a little more action locally will undoubtedly flock to the nearby Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono Downs.
Attendance for Penguins games has declined steadily over recent seasons. The team currently averages about 5400 fans per game, ranking them in the middle of the pack among AHL teams. This is a far cry from the seven straight seasons when the team averaged over 8,000 fans from 2000-2007. The fans who come to Mohegan Sun Arena are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and the arena can get loud when the Penguins get on a roll. Wilkes Barre fans have a reputation around the AHL as one of the more unwelcoming groups in the league, but I have never personally witnessed any problems at a Penguins game.
The Mohegan Sun Arena couldn't be easier to get to. Visible from Interstate 81, the arena is located just feet from exit 168. There is a large, unpaved parking lot adjacent to the facility that does not charge any fee for parking. Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends. Mohegan Sun Arena does not have an entry lobby, resulting in fans entering directly onto the concourse from outside the building. As a result, fans are required to wait outside while their tickets are taken. If you are attending a Penguins game on a cold, rainy night, the long lines that form are a most unwelcome nuisance.
Once inside the arena, fans enter into a cramped concourse that is much too small for the crowds that come to Penguins games. Concession stands line the inner wall of the concourse, and many portable carts line the outer wall. Lines from these stands often spill out, making navigating the concourse even more problematic. The concourse is horseshoe shaped, with a small walkway behind the sections 123-126. This walkway is only wide enough for two people, making getting around in this area even more difficult.
The seating bowl does not share the same cramped feeling as the concourse. Seats are divided into two levels, each featuring individual blue seats. These seats are wide and comfortable, even for fans of larger stature. All seats feature excellent sight lines.
Unfortunately, once you leave the seating bowl and exit the arena, traffic problems rear their ugly head once again. There are only two ways out of the parking lot, making exiting a slow process. It can take up to a half hour to get out of the lot on certain nights.
Lower level tickets at Mohegan Sun Arena range in price from $25-$36, and upper level tickets range from $18-$28. This puts the Penguins in the same range as other minor league hockey teams in the area. Concession stand prices are also in line with other venues at this level of hockey. Where the Mohegan Sun Arena shines is that they offer free parking in the lot adjacent to the facility. Seeing how it is the only option for parking here, it would be easy to charge a fee and collect some extra money from every fan coming to see a game. The fact that the Penguins don't charge for parking more than makes up for the slow egress in leaving the lots after a game.
In the far corner of the arena behind section 126 is an open area where the team has set up display cases to display the many bobbleheads that the team has given away over the years. Also set up here is the WBS Penguins Hall of Fame and the Booster Club.
Banners hang from the rafters of the Mohegan Sun Arena honoring the many division and conference championships won by the Penguins over their history. Also hanging are large banners featuring pictures of Pens alumni who currently play in Pittsburgh.
Wilkes Barre has become a lone Penguins outpost in the middle of Flyers country thanks to the success of the baby Pens. The arena may not pack in the fans like it used to, but it is still a solid place to take in a hockey game, and recent additions have served to improve the game day experience.
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Member Review by collegiatestdms
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.
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.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Dec 29, 2014
The name might not be that apt, but MSAACP is a good AHL rink, though a bit tight in the concourses. The upper bowl is close to the ice and offers a clear view. Seats between the blue lines are often empty, so buy a cheapie and look to move around. Parking flows well both before and after the game. Didn't try the food, but there are a few chains nearby as well as the mall across the street. Really appreciate the banners honouring past players who have gone on to win the Cup with Pittsburgh.
380 Coal St
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
251 Mundy St.
Wilkes Barre, PA 18702
110 Schecter Drive
Wilkes Barre, PA 18702
242 Highland Park Blvd.
Wilkes Barre, PA 18702
879 Schechter Drive
Wilkes Barre, PA 18702
876 Schechter Drive
Wilkes Barre, PA 18702