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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The New Holland Arena, formerly known as either the Large Arena or Farm Show Arena, is one 6 different buildings that make up the Pennsylvania Farm Show and Expo Center in Harrisburg. It is also home to the Harrisburg Heat of Major Arena Soccer League.
In 1917 the first state-wide farm show took place attracting 5,000 visitors and as it grew in popularity a new centralized place was needed to house the event. On January 31, 1929 construction for the $1.4 million farm show complex broke ground and opened in time for the 1931 Farm Show; by the end of the decade (1939) the complex would include the Large Arena. Today, the Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the world attracting 585,000 visitors to 24 acres of animals, educational encounters, displays, and food.
The original Heat were members of the old National Professional Soccer League that began operations in 1991 becoming a popular draw during the decade playing in front of crowds that averaged between 5,000-6,000 people to the 7,300 seat arena. However, the team would cease operations in 2003 until being rebooted 9 years later.
The current version of the Heat began in 2012 and new ownership plans to restore the club to its glory days in central Pennsylvania. Owner Carl Delmont looks to improve the team by signing international talent and improve the crowd experience in hopes of producing success on and off the field.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are multiple concession stands throughout the main concourse with only a handful open during games to support the crowd. There is also a beer garden that serves various beers, ciders, and other alcoholic beverages.
The prices and selection are reasonable and include chicken tender baskets ($6), hot dogs ($3), cheeseburgers ($6), grilled chicken sandwiches ($7.25), nachos ($3), pizza ($3.50), and fries ($3.25). There are also two types of sausage sandwiches for $6: Italian and hot. To wash all of these items down, the facility offers Coca-Cola products at $3.25-$4.25 respectively.
The beer garden houses 26 different bottled beers ranging from local favorites Tröegs, Yuengling, and Yards to national brands of Bud, Coors, and PBR. There is also Jack's Ciders and Not Your Father's alcoholic beverages. The prices range from $6.50-$8; while at the concession stands, premium and domestic beers sell for $6 and $7 respectively.
The Harrisburg Heat provide an enjoyable way to spend a cold winter's evening indoors. The facility itself is in sound condition for its age and features a wide concourse to house activities and provide easy access around the building and seating area.
The merchandise tent offers t-shirts, hoodies, zip-ups, flags, replica jerseys, and other paraphernalia at reasonable prices - a replica jersey is a steal at $50. Adjacent to the tent is the official fan club that looks to boost up its membership. There is even an area where kids can get balloon sculptures for free. The night we visited the arena the Heat were hosting local businesses who were offering free samples of products and information around the curved concourse area.
Players arrive on field through a cloud of smoke from the open goalpost and rock and pop music is played throughout the game, hallmarks of indoor soccer from its earliest days. The PA announcer does an adamant job energizing the crowd and highlighting the action on the field. The official team mascot Scorch can be seen around the building waving his flag and giving hugs to kids.
The arena floor is mostly covered in dirt for the Farm Show and the field itself rests on top of it for home games. The dirt creates a track around the boards and field, but also provides extra cushion for the artificial surface for players. The sight lines are close for games and there is not a bad seat anywhere in the house, even way up on top, the view of the field is unobstructed. A simple scoreboard hovers over center field that is out of date in terms of graphics; however, ownership is looking to install video boards in the future for replays.
The Farm Show Complex is a few miles away from downtown Harrisburg by car. The state capital of Pennsylvania offers plenty to do if in town for the weekend along the Susquehanna River. The top tourist spots include the National Civil War Museum, State Capitol, Ft. Hunter Mansion and Park, and Riverfront Park.
For nightlife, downtown offers the Susquehanna Ale House, Sawyers, Bourbon Street Saloon, and Appalachian Brewing Company. However, Mr. G's Sports Bar, the official after game destination, might be a fun way to start or end your night.
It's a simple gathering spot a few minutes from the arena offering pub food and music. The players and fans mingle together and owner Georgio Giannaris might even buy you a drink and talk soccer at your table. I would suggest the Stadium Journey special of Cajun, Garlic, Honey wings Chicago-style (served on top of fries) and a pint of Yuengling. Also, say hi to Sammy and tip her well for me.
The game itself is fast paced, easy to follow, and highly entertaining. The collection of fans who gather for Heat games provide a knowledgeable content of the game and a few can be seen sporting the purple and orange colors of the team. There is even a collection of people who wear jerseys from the original club dating back 20 years. They are a great group to talk to, pick their brains for memories, and share a few laughs; however, there just needs to be a lot more of them inside the building. I am sure that time will come.
The arena is almost 80 years old, but very easy to navigate around once inside the building. The bathrooms and concession areas are well labeled and parking is plentiful. The main concourse is where all the bathrooms, concessions, ticket windows, and merchandise booths can be found.
There are four price points for single-game tickets: $12, $15, $18, and $20. Parking is $10 per car, merchandise is reasonably low, and food options are fairly priced. A single person can enjoy a game under $50 easily.
One point for the team setting up events at each home game. They include Boy Scouts, Girls Got Game, Faith, Heat Give Back Fundraiser, and Bikes, Brews, and Bands Nights.
Another point for the 26 different variety of beers at the Beer Garden. You would expect the basics at most venues this size, but 26 is definitely very impressive.
For starters, it's great to see the Heat back in Harrisburg. Pro indoor soccer had its moments at the Farm Show Complex in the past and looks forward to returning to glory in the future. The current franchise should embrace its ancestors and hang a few banners up to celebrate the division championship titles. A night out at a game is very laid back, low key, but definitely a lot of fun at a very reasonable price. If you like all your action on the field and top it off with a friendly place to mingle with fans and players, a Heat game might be your cup of tea.
Member Review by Richard Smith on Feb 04, 2015
From 1991 to 2003, the original Harrisburg Heat played indoor soccer as part of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL), which would later became one of many versions of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). The team gave the well-established Baltimore Blast a local rivalry, as Harrisburg is less than two hours down I-83 from “Charm City.”
The Heat began just as the Hershey Impact imploded, leaving a sports void for indoor soccer in central Pennsylvania. Although always competitive in the NPSL and MISL, the Heat only made it to the sport’s finals in 1994-95, losing to the St. Louis Ambush.
Finally in 2012, a new version of the Harrisburg Heat began as an expansion team of the Professional Arena Soccer League (PASL). Rather than playing in the Large Arena at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center, as the old Heat did, the new Heat played their games at 2,500-seat Equine Arena, located just down the hall in the same complex.
In 2014, the PASL and the most successful teams of the MISL (including the Heat’s old rival, the Baltimore Blast) merged into a new entity called the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL). With this “new” league came a move back to the Large Arena. The team had actually contemplated a move to the larger venue during a potential playoff run in 2013/2014, which did not occur.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center is obviously home to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. That show, held during the second week in January, is considered the largest indoor agricultural event held in the United States. The complex is all indoors and includes eleven buildings, including one other arena (Sale Arena) besides the Large and Equine Arena.
The finals of the First Frontier Circuit Rodeo are also held annually at the Large Arena during the Farm Show event. That event is the end of the regional rodeo circuit for the upper northeast part of the United States.
Former professional sports teams that also played here have been the Harrisburg Hammerheads of the Continental Basketball Association and the Harrisburg Stampede of the Professional Indoor Football League.
3745 N 6th St
Harrisburg, PA 17110
50 North Cameron St
Harrisburg, PA 17110
920 Wildwood Park Dr
Harrisburg, PA 07113